According to a new survey, 48% of UAE workers are still not receiving medical insurance as part of their employment package — more than three years since a government decree that made this benefit mandatory.
That’s the April 2017 finding of bayt.com, the recruitment platform, who made the discovery as part of its 2017 MENA-wide employment survey. (MENA: Middle East & North Africa)
The Dubai Health Insurance Law came into effect in January 2014, impressing on every employer a legal liability to provide an essential benefits package, which includes health cover.
The law has been phased in for the last three years, leading to recent reports of a bottleneck of demand for group insurance quotes as employers scramble to comply with the ruling.
But the survey cast doubt on how many companies have fully seen through their requirement to get their employees covered. It also depicts a stagnating salary market amidst rising general prices.
bayt.com’s survey investigated a range of employment-related themes, from the contents of remuneration packages to recent changes in salaries and employee feelings about them — as well as the length of time in employment, views on job loyalty and the outlook for the future.
The research asked a total of 3,879 employees across 12 countries about their jobs — 508 of them responding from UAE. One third of MENA respondents were in senior or middle management positions, while 17% were either junior managers, team leaders or supervisors.
Employment packages – medical and beyond
Only 52% of UAE respondents claimed they received medical insurance, while Bahrain saw the lowest levels of this provision, at 18% of the island nation’s respondents.
More than half (58%) in the UAE claimed they had both salary and benefits. Only 23% of those in UAE claim to receive gratuity, though this is almost three times the MENA average (8%). However, 63% said that it was generally their company’s policy to offer gratuity to all employees; potentially highlighting a discrepancy between ‘what is said on the tin’ by companies and what employees actually receive.
Other UAE benefits include transportation (30% said they receive this), annual air ticket (37%), housing allowance (26%) and family medical (17%). This compares with a MENA average of just 45% receiving medical cover, 29% receiving transportation allowance, 18% receiving housing help, and 22% receiving family medical.
Overall, UAE companies outperformed the MENA average for the employment related provisions, though the survey notes that the norms of employment vary greatly across the region.
Saudi Arabia (just less than a third of the survey respondents in terms of location) was also competitive, with 55% receiving medical cover, and almost half (44%) claiming they received transportation allowance. But only 5% in the Kingdom claimed they received gratuity.
Salaries and raises
Almost half of the UAE respondents (48%) claimed that they did not get a raise in 2016, while 16% claimed their raise was between 1-5%, and 11% saw an increase between 6-10%.
This echoes the reality of the wider region, where 49% did not receive a raise, with Algeria and Saudi Arabia — at 62% and 61% — leading the table for complete wage stagnation.
Almost half (49%) in UAE said they were very happy or modestly happy with any raise they did get, with more than a fifth claiming to be ‘very unhappy’ with what they were given. Qatar workers who received a raise were also chipper: a total 53% were ‘very’ or ‘modestly’ happy. Six-out-of-ten in MENA generally were unhappy with their increase – 22% being ‘very unhappy’ – with just 8% being very happy with the extra dough.
Around half (48%) of the UAE workers believed they would not get a raise this year, or didn’t know; which, again, is in rough proportion to the MENA region. The most positive workers seemed to be from Egypt, where only 32% said they weren’t expecting a raise, and as many as 23% hoping for a hike of between 6-10%.
The survey also identified how people wished to be paid. More than half (57%) in the UAE thought a fixed pay structure would work best, with 32% opting for a mix of fixed and variable (commissions and incentives) and just 11% preferred full variable income. These preferences are similar in proportions to the rest of the MENA region. Respondents in Kuwait were the most fervent for a fixed pay structure, at 71%.
Across MENA, 52% exhibit low levels of satisfaction with their salary, with 48% saying the same as a GCC average.
Half of the respondents for the region didn’t know, or couldn’t say, how salaries compared between men and women in the MENA region, while 40% in UAE came to the same conclusion.
But for those who did venture an opinion, 14% in UAE thought that women were offered a higher salary for the same job compared to men (10% thought this in MENA overall), while 35% thought there was no pay difference (29% across MENA, with Tunisia the highest for perceived parity, at 58%), and 11% of both UAE and MENA generally estimating women received less.
Industry pay perception
The survey also teased out the perception that workers had regarding their pay relative to their industry.
More than half (55%) thought their salary was lower than their industry average, though 10% didn’t know or couldn’t say. For the region, 63% said they thought their salary was lower than their industry generally.
Almost a fifth in UAE (19%) thought they were better off than others in the country, while 29% thought they were somewhat better off. For MENA overall, a total of 37% thought they were either much or somewhat better off, with 28% estimating they were about the same as their fellow worker.
The picture doesn’t look good for work horses putting in the extra hours. Almost every country except Tunisia and Qatar had 60% or more respondents claiming they did not get extra compensation for working overtime. Workers in Lebanon had it worse — 77% said they got no extra — while 64% UAE workers said the same, just higher than the MENA average of 62%.
Costs and savings
A general perception of rising living expenses also materialised in the survey. A rent increase was seen by 74% of UAE respondents, while 59% said food & beverages prices had increased, 57% pointed to higher utility bills, and almost a third saw that education fees had risen. Overall, more than seven-in-ten expected further cost increases.
A similar picture was painted for MENA: 76% saw food & beverages rise, 74% saw a hike in utilities, with 80% expecting further rises.
While more than a quarter of UAE workers don’t repatriate any money to their homeland (43% for MENA response overall) as much as 13% sent home between 21-50%, and a total of 23% of respondents sent between 1-10% of their income.
The rise in perceived costs of living seems to have created a statistical mixed bag across the region. Just less than a third of UAE respondents said they did not save any of their monthly income, with 16% putting away between 1-5%. However, 11% said they kept aside between 21-50%, which could indicate a wide range of abilities to avoid the country’s many attractions and retail outlets. Indeed, 32% said that entertainment costs had risen in the Emirates last year.
For the region, a sizeable 45% said they were not saving a penny of their monthly income. As with the UAE, 16% said they had 1-5% leftover, while 8% had between 21-50%. Morocco saw the lowest levels of savings: 63% said they saved nothing.
This is arguably linked to the findings regarding financial investments. Almost 80% of UAE workers didn’t make investments (once per month or more) in financial assets, while 86% said the same across the region.
Where such investments were made, 21% of UAE investors put their cash in their own businesses, and a combined 28% invest in local, regional and international property. More than a quarter of MENA-region investors (26% on average) invested in their own businesses, with Algeria most frequently doing so, at 33%.
Should I stay or should I go?
31% of UAE respondents said they’d been with their employer for less than three years; a similar proportion between 3-6 years.
Only 26% had held one job in the last five years in UAE; 37% said two jobs. In the MENA generally, these percentages were 28% and 33%, respectively. Kuwait has the most stick-ability: 42% said they’d held just one job in the last five years.
For the UAE in particular, the findings show how fluid the job market can be, and how rare it is to be with one company for more than a few years. While the country has a expatriate-dominated workforce, it is telling that for the MENA region as a whole, 35% have held three jobs in the last five years.
In north west Africa, where the population is more steady and citizen-dominated, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria still had between 24-32% of its workforce having two different jobs since 2012.
The logical next question then arises: why are people moving on so quickly? Is the grass getting greener?
Just over a fifth (21%) in UAE said their loyalty is solely linked to the salary they get, while 14% each said salary was the deal-breaker ‘to a large extent’ and ’to some extent’, while 31% said salary was entirely irrelevant. For MENA generally, 39% say salary isn’t their driver to stay in their job, while 17% said pay is all they cared about as they kept clocking on. Lebanon and Tunisia led the way among the individual nations for non-salary reasons for loyalty, at 47%, while Oman workers admitted most frequently that cash was their sole motivation (27%).
Career advancement was the most popular reason for UAE workers to stick with their employer — 34% ticked this box, in a part of the survey that looks like respondents could give more than one answer. An exact third said the daily tasks of the job kept them coming back, while training opportunities (27%), colleagues and line manager (both 26%), office environment and company brand (both 25%) followed behind.
Between 31-33% of respondents for MENA generally credited their line manager, career path, daily tasks, office, training, and colleagues.
More than half of the UAE respondents said they’d look for a job in the same industry in the next 12 months (55%), as did 53% in the region as a whole. But only 15% would be looking to move away from UAE to other parts of MENA to do so.
Demographics and survey caveats
- Nine out of ten respondents were in full time work
- 84% of the respondents were male
- The top three countries as per where the respondents lived and worked were Saudi Arabia (30%), Egypt (26%) and UAE (13%)
- 72% considered themselves their family’s ‘main earner’
- 81% fell between the ages of 25 and 44 years old
- More than half had university degrees; 99% had secondary school learning or above
- 81% of respondents were MENA citizens – North African (51%), Levant (Lebanon and Jordan – 15%), and GCC (15%). While North Africans and Levant workers could well be a combination of those living and working in their home countries as well as expatriates in countries in the GCC, it’s important to note that only 14% of respondents were Asian and just 1% were from a ‘western’ country (4% were ‘other’). This may present statistical issues for that countries with an expatriate-dominant labour force, such as UAE, who likely have the highest proportion of Asian and western workers.
- While elements of the survey allowed a simple, factual response (e.g., did you get a raise last year?), other areas required estimates by the respondents (e.g., the price change in day-to-day living), while the rest relied on how the job market and its components were ‘perceived’. It’s important not to take perception as factual, particularly where participants are unlikely to now for sure (such as the perceived gender pay gap).