For five years since he was hired as a technical assistant at a reputed organization in Dubai, Sanu [name changed] only got a Dh60 ($60) salary increase. Requests for promotion have fallen on deaf ears and the Indian expatriate, now in his 40s and struggling to support his family with only a little over Dh4,000 monthly salary, is seriously considering leaving Dubai to find a better paying job. “I’m the only income-earning person in the family. My father [who is paralysed] and mother are [old]. I have a wife and three kids, aged 10 and four, all are in India. [I’ve got] medicines, children’s studies to pay,” Sanu said. The Indian expatriate is just one of the many workers in Dubai who feel they are not getting the salary they deserve. Studies have shown that a significant number of employees in the UAE and other countries in the Middle East, are dissatisfied with the level of their compensation. A survey conducted by YouGov and a job recruitment site showed that three in seven people in the region exhibit low level of satisfaction with their monthly income.
Sanu said his employer, a large organisation in the service industry with 10,000 personnel in its payroll, had promised during the interview that salary increments are granted to the staff every year.
Despite consistently doing well in annual appraisals, the last wage increase he received was in 2011, only a year after taking his position as a technical assistant.
“My salary has not changed since then,” he said.
It’s not that Sanu has not done anything to push for a salary increase. “Three times, my promotion papers were sent to HR [but no luck],” he added.
With a limited income and a big family to support in India, Sanu is forced to cut down on living costs. That means renting a small room with other expatriates in Karama and avoiding unnecessary expenses, such as going to the malls, having coffee or dinner with friends outside.
“I am struggling. [My company] is not giving transportation, so I am using the metro and bus… The rent is increasing. Within one year, it increased from 50 per cent to 75 per cent,” he said.
He’s unable to borrow money from the bank, considering that most financial institutions in Dubai would lend only to borrowers who earn more than Dh5,000 ($1360) a month.
The sad thing is, he said, “everybody in Dubai and in my home country is thinking that I’m earning a good salary because I work in the government sector, but nobody knows the truth.”
Hays, a recruitment agency based in Dubai, has recently released the 2015 Salary Guide, which provides the latest salary brackets for more than 100 job titles in various industries in the UAE. Most of the positions listed there have salaries between Dh12,000 ($3267) and Dh70,000 ($19000).
The majority of Gulf News readers who commented on the salary guide, around 120 out of 140, claimed their salaries are significantly lower than what’s published by Hays. The recruitment specialist later clarified that the guide is based on the responses of their candidates who are mostly earning above Dh12,000.
N.A., another expatriate from Pakistan, said his Dh6,059 salary is lower than what his peers in his profession are receiving. He was promoted more than a couple of times since 2006, but until now his salary has not changed a bit.
“My employer announced salary alignment in 2013 for technical staff and their salaries were increased more than 100 per cent, but there is no [increase] for non-technical staff like us,” said the expatriate, who asked not be named.
Human resources specialists said that employees who feel they are not being compensated fairly should take up the matter to their managers, and if negotiations fail, they should be willing to take risks and explore other employment opportunities elsewhere.
“The UAE labour market is, for the most part, a free market. Employees are free to seek other more rewarding employment opportunities. But before making any decision, it is important that employees make a full assessment of their total compensation package, including allowances, bonus and other benefits, not just salary alone,” said one HR expert.
Chris Greaves, managing director at Hays Gulf region, said that if the organisation has an annual appraisal system in place, employees should not hesitate to bring up the matter of promotion to secure a better pay. Employees should ask their managers what they can do to upgrade their position.
“If a company has an annual, universal pay review, whereby everyone in the business gets the same 3 or 4 per cent hike, then employees need to be asking about personal development through promotion,” advised Greaves.
“Ask your boss, ‘What do I need to do to get promoted? What opportunities are there for me to learn and develop? What could my job look like in two years time?’ Most companies value ambition in their employees, as long as it comes with capability, and try to keep such people happy and in the business for the medium term.”
However, if nothing is achieved within the same organization, Greaves said more financially rewarding careers await those who are not afraid to quit the jobs they are not happy with.
But employees should be realistic about what they can achieve according to their experience and qualifications. They also need to be persistent, since jobs that offer bigger paycheques also attract tough competition from fellow ambitious candidates.
“Someone working as an accountant for a small paints company earning Dh6,000 per month is not going to suddenly get a job as an accountant with a global oil company earning Dh18,000 per month,” he said.
“This kind of transition is possible, but over time and it has to be done in stages. Employees need to target a realistic next step in terms of responsibilities and salary and identify the kind of organisation that will offer those opportunities paying enhanced salaries.”
“If people want to get to the top, they have to take risks and move jobs every two to three years if their current employer can’t meet their salary and career development needs.”
“People also need to realise that for the higher paying jobs, there is greater competition and they probably won’t get the first job they apply for. They need to be persistent.”
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