CW's 2017 Salary Survey sheds light on GCC construction job trends


James Morgan , December 2nd, 2017

The results of Construction Week’s 2017 Salary Survey have been compiled and, while there are certainly areas that represent cause for concern, there are also plenty of reasons for optimism.

Year-on-year comparisons show that job satisfaction among respondents has increased by 10%, with more construction companies receiving favourable ratings from their employees than in 2016. Moreover, although more than half of this year’s respondents intend to change jobs within the coming 12 months, the vast majority – approximately 86%, in fact – expect to remain in the GCC.

Consequently, while one may surmise that 2018 is likely to be characterised by a preponderance of inter-company chopping and changing, the fact that such a large proportion of construction professionals plan to stay in the region spells good news for the overall stability of the Gulf’s construction community.

But before it is possible to draw any overarching conclusions from respondents’ answers, it would be prudent to delve into the minutiae of this year’s results. Let’s begin with the bad news.

As was the case last year, the Gulf construction sector’s ongoing adjustment to reduced oil revenues appears to be taking its toll on front-line employees’ continuity of pay. Although the cost of a barrel of crude has increased by almost $8 since November 2016 – with the current price hovering just above the $58 mark – our industry continues to face squeezed margins and low market liquidity.

This, it seems, is reflected in the results of CW’s 2017 Salary Survey, which shows that approximately one quarter of respondents have experienced disruptions to their salaries during the past 12 months.

While the range of this year’s reported delays varied significantly, from a matter of days to several months, the mean average – based on the cumulative responses of those who claim to have experienced salary-related disruptions during the past 12 months – was 48 days. While this figure is clearly cause for concern, it should also be noted that it is significantly lower than last year’s mean average of 60 days. Worryingly, however, two of this year’s respondents claimed not to have been paid by their respective employers since 2016.

It’s also interesting to note that, on a general level, these figures bear a striking resemblance to those recorded in 2016. Both this year and last, 23% of respondents reported having experienced salary-related delays during the preceding 12-month period. The situation may not have improved year-on-year, but neither does it appear to have worsened.

Just like in 2016, when asked to describe their salary within a regional context, the most popular answer among this year’s respondents was ‘average’ (48%). The survey witnessed an increase in the number of participants who described their salary as ‘below average’ (26% in 2017, compared to 24% in 2016), but a fall in the number of people who described their  salary as ‘well below average’ (6% versus 8%). Around 18% of 2017 respondents viewed their salary as ‘above average’, a slight fall compared to last year’s 20%. The proportion of those who considered their wages ‘well above average’ also fell from 3% in 2016 to 2% in 2017.

As mentioned at the beginning of the feature, the overall level of job satisfaction among 2017’s respondents witnessed a year-on-year climb of approximately 10%. When asked to rate how satisfied they were with their employers – with one being the lowest and 10 being the highest rating – last year’s respondents reported an average rating of six. In contrast, the mean average rating among 2017’s participants climbed to more than seven out of 10.

Despite this encouraging increase in job satisfaction, construction-related recruitment in the GCC looks set to remain as dynamic as ever. Just over half of this year’s respondents (52%) intend to change jobs within the next 12 months – the same proportion that registered their intention to move in 2016. Nevertheless, based on the responses of this year’s participants, the risk of sectoral brain drain appears unlikely. Even including those who plan to seek employment elsewhere, 86% of the 2017 cohort expect to remain in the GCC.

Of those who do intend to leave the Gulf, Europe retains its crown as the destination of choice (30%) among this year’s respondents. Australasia is the second most popular relocation destination (23%), and North Africa is tempting 15% of this year’s cohort.

As was the case in 2016, the most common salary bracket among this year’s respondents (14%) was $2,001 to $3,000 per month, although the $1,001 to $2,000 window registered as a close second (13%). The 2017 results comprised a greater proportion of respondents at the lower end of the pay scale, with 76% of the cohort reporting monthly earnings in excess of $2,000, compared to 84% in 2016.

Approximately 2% of 2017’s respondents – the same proportion as last year – reported basic monthly earnings of less than $500. Conversely, whereas nobody who responded to CW’s 2016 Salary Survey reported a monthly wage of more than $40,000, seven fortunate individuals claimed to be earning in excess of $480,000 per annum this year.

Once again, air tickets home were the most common benefit among this year’s cohort (80%). Accommodation or accommodation allowance came in second place (72%), followed by a company car or car allowance (54%), commission or bonuses (34%), and school fees or schooling allowance (14%).

Wage stagnation within the GCC’s construction community appears not only to have persisted, but also increased among respondents to CW’s 2017 Salary Survey. The 2015 survey found that the salaries of 60% of respondents had either remained the same or fallen during the preceding 12-month period. Last year, this figure increased to 69% and, among this year’s respondents, it was 72%.

The proportion of participants who reported having received a pay cut during the previous 12 months witnessed a slight fall this year, with 3% seeing their wages reduced compared to 5.5% in 2016. Approximately 14% of this year’s respondents have received a pay rise due to promotion during the past year, with the same proportion receiving a cost-of-living pay rise.

Of those who have received salary increases in the past 12 months, the most common percentage rise was less than 0.5% (27%). Approximately 4% of this year’s participants have seen their salaries rise by more than 20% during the last year.

Of those whose salaries have fallen during the past 12 months, the most common percentage reduction was also less than 0.5% (51%). Almost 5% of this sub-section have suffered pay cuts in excess of 20%.

Wage-related optimism has witnessed a slight year-on-year increase. Almost half (48%) of respondents anticipate a pay rise within the next 12 months, compared with 44% of the 2016 cohort. However, it’s interesting to note that 71% of respondents to CW’s 2015 Salary Survey anticipated a pay rise within the proceeding 12 months, so it would be fair to conclude that salary expectations in the region remain muted.

Of those who do expect their wages to increase during the coming year, 22% anticipate a rise of between 5.1% to 10%. Approximately 6% of respondents anticipate a pay hike in excess of 20%.

Average working hours within the GCC’s construction community appear to have remained relatively stable, year on year. Once again, the most common category among this year’s respondents was an average working week of 46 to 50 hours (34%). In terms of outliers, 2% of the cohort claimed to be working in excess of 71 hours per week, while nobody reported average working weeks of less than 30 hours.

CW’s annual Salary Survey usually sheds light on trends that represent cause for concern, and the 2017 iteration is no exception. Although perhaps indicative of broader economic challenges, factors such as salary disruption and wage stagnation could pose serious problems for the GCC’s construction industry if left unchecked.

There are, however, several reasons to be cheerful. A year-on-year rise in overall job satisfaction, coupled with the fact that the majority of 2017’s respondents intend to remain in the GCC during the coming 12 months, suggest that construction firms can look forward to a period of relative stability when it comes to the regional workforce.

That this year’s responses so closely reflect those collected as part of CW’s 2016 Salary Survey may also give credence to this assessment.


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