2009 Construction Week salary survey: the results
The results in detail
The bulk of respondents (82%) were aged 26-50; in fact, 76% were 31 or over.
The Gulf is not a place for first-jobbers. The majority of people working in the region’s construction industry are old enough to have had a few years of experience, at the very least, in their country of origin.
However, it is seen as a place where an experienced person can capitalise on their skills, be exposed to a greater range of job options, or expand their career horizons.
Later in their career, people tend to move on, or move home, a factor sometimes related to children reaching a secondary education age.
International companies tend to hire from a wider range of nations and employ more Western Europeans and North Americans than companies described as either regional or local.
Local companies show a greater concentration of employees drawn from the wider region, especially Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Bigger companies tend to pay more across the board, though the highest earners were spread around from the smallest to the largest firms.
Smaller companies aren’t as good for the average worker, but show signs of being the best place to be for senior professionals up to general manager level.
The majority of construction employees in the region have taken jobs with new employers within the last three-to-five years.
It is clear this was in response to the available opportunities, but those in first are getting the best deal. As such, a larger proportion of the higher salary earners were represented by people who have worked for their current employer for more than five years.
This is the average across all professions and all GCC countries, though the majority of respondents are based in the UAE, with KSA and Qatar coming a distant second and third. People were asked to indicate their basic salary, exclusive of allowances.
There is a significant mix of nationalities in senior positions, especially among the engineering community.
Those that said they get no allowances come from all Gulf countries, including the UAE where several allowances are a legal obligation of the employer. The likelihood is people don’t realise that allowances are built into their salary.
The impact of the boom years on salary was clear, with most respondents having had a pay rise within the last two years.
Inflation in the GCC countries, as well as a shortage of skilled people and the staff poaching that resulted, were all factors in the steady pay increases people in the industry experienced.
Of the 8% who have not received any increases in the last three years, a disproportionate number were among the highest earners in the survey.
For the small number of people who were offered an alternative to a pay rise, the most common options were an accommodation allowance and commission.
Unpaid leave was not on the agenda either, with 88% saying it had not been offered by their company, illustrating that in construction at least, if you have a job it is because there is work to be done.
This is the most surprising result to emerge from the survey, which was run during the darkest months of the downturn.
Despite the prevailing mood of the industry, at the time, being pessimistic, with projects being placed on hold and construction work visibly slowing, particularly in the UAE, a large proportion of people expected the pattern of regular pay rises to continue.
Those that kept their jobs remain optimistic about future rewards and 44% agreed with the idea that they ‘look forward to the future with complete confidence’.
This contradicts the perception that working in the Gulf is a big pay day for people from around the world.
In fact looking at it globally, 44% thought their salary was below average. The majority of these people indicated they earn less than US $4500 per month.
The results raise the question of what are people doing here if they feel they can earn more elsewhere? This alone casts doubt on the veracity of the results and suggests people simply perceive themselves as a bit hard done by.
Julius is 43 years old and moved from Dubai to Doha in the early part of 2008, after being offered a considerable pay increase. Working as a managing director of a small ‘regional’ company, he now earns approximately US $10,500 per month.
Niko is a 28 year old quantity surveyor originally from South Africa. He earns around US $5000 per month. He has worked in the UAE for just over four years. Initially recruited from his home country for a major infrastructure project, he has stayed with the same company since he arrived.
He is now on his third project with the company, having seen the first completed and the second put on hold and turned into a car park. However, this third project is in Abu Dhabi, where he must commute every day from his home in Dubai. Niko feels he is likely to leave the Gulf within the next 12 months.
Patrick is a 39 year old project manager from Ireland. He earns around US $7500 per month plus allowances. He has worked in the UAE for five years, having spent most of that time on a hotel project.
After the project was finished he spent a few months on paid leave, while his company tried to secure new contracts. He still works for the same company, but now spends a great deal of time in Abu Dhabi working on a major interior fit out project.