Career aspirations and payrolls: Kuwait leads in lower pay for expatriates


A recent survey by, the leading online recruitment company in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, on payrolls and career aspirations among young professionals in the region showed that over 70 percent of participants view ‘salary and fringe benefits’ as the most important aspect when it comes to a new job. On the other hand, 42 percent of survey respondents felt ‘career growth opportunities’ were important. Salaries and career growth were followed in priority by ‘job security’ and ‘work-life balance’ among respondents in the survey.

Surprisingly, in a region known for its business acumen there were only 26 percent who preferred setting up their own business; the overwhelming majority (54%) preferred to be employees. Interestingly, the survey also revealed that while 45 percent preferred to retire after the age of 60, only less than a fifth of respondents (14%) chose early retirement before the age of 50, indicating a majority chose the security of remaining the workforce for a longer period.

Data for the 2018 ‘Career Aspirations’ study was collected online from 22 November to 25 December, 2018 and were based on a sample 3,128 respondents. Countries that participated in the survey included Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, as well as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia in the Middle-East and North Africa.

A related survey on payrolls in the GCC region showed that on average the expatriate workforce in the Gulf countries is declining. The average number of expatriates dropped the highest in Saudi Arabia (34.2%) followed by Kuwait which witnessed a decline of 27.7 percent, and the UAE where there was a drop of 26.74 percent.

The survey also showed that average monthly salary of expatriates in the Gulf countries dropped by 26 percent from a year earlier to $ 8,083. However, the decline was not uniform, with significant discrepancies existing between average salaries across the six-nation gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc. While the average salary of expatriates in Saudi Arabia was $ 8,560 per month, it was $8312 in the United Arab Emirates, $7840 in Bahrain, $7815 in Oman and $7790 in Kuwait. Details of average salary in Qatar were not available. The survey found that average salaries fell the highest in Bahrain and Oman(25.2%) during the survey period.

The top two paying jobs for expatriates in the GCC were that of CEO or managing director of a multinational company. For the top posts, the average salary rose 2.95 percent from $33,988 to $34,990, while the average salary of the chief executive / managing director of a local company rose 13.25 percent from $ 22,031 to $ 24,950. The survey revealed that the country of origin did not have a significant impact on the salary a CEO received.

However, it needs to be pointed out that the 2018 Payroll Survey was also subject to some changes in the calculations, with several levels of low-wage jobs being added to the index in the latest survey and probably causing the decline in the average salary of expatriates.

Other findings from the latest Bayt-com study show that small and medium local companies in the private sector have the highest hiring potential in the next three months, with 76 percent of them saying they will be hiring. In addition, around 68 percent of employers said that good ‘communication skills in Arabic and English’ was the top skill that they looked for in a candidate. The survey also revealed that ‘business management’ (30%) and ‘commerce’ (26%) were two of the most sought-after qualifications among employers.