Dubai City Information Site

The Salary Structure in Dubai




Hi, Sunil here to talk about the salary structure in Dubai

Jobs in Dubai and salary discussions have always been some of the most demanded topics requested from Kish and I, so we can never write enough about it.

Hopefully you find everything related to working in Dubai as well as the compensation structure on our website.

If you don’t please let us know. We would hate to turn you back wanting more.

So why do people ask about the salary structure in Dubai.

Because it is not as plain vanilla as it is in most places. For example, in the USA you have your base compensation, your bonuses and then similar perks across companies. There will be some differences here and there but for the most part salaries and perks and standardized across industries and business within.

If you are looking for a job in Dubai, or have already landed one, you must have found out how different things work there.

Your salary can vary drastically depending on the passport you hold. Western passports (UK, USA) typically command more salary and benefits (at least as of 2009).

The types of perks you get can also very drastically. Some get their housing, cars and fuel paid for, while others do not get anything.


But for the sake of this discussion, I will mainly focus on what you can expect as a Westerner going to Dubai for work. You can extend the definition of Westerner to include most first world countries (Australia, UK, USA, Canada, etc.)

The goal of this discussion? To give you an idea of the component that make up the salary structure in Dubai. Hopefully after reading this you will be able to compare offers in an apples to apples way, understand how your total compensation package is structured and where you have “wiggle room” to negotiate with your employer (to be).

Do understand one thing. Dubai employers have no shortage of money. They pay top dollar (yes in good economies or bad) and the best perks you will ever come to know of. You will also get up to 30 days of annual leave (sometimes more).

What does this discussion not cover? Labor laws. You are better off hiring a legal expert for that, unless you want to get into trouble by listening to me :-)

SOME BASIC INFORMATION ON DUBAI JOBS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Dubai, and the UAE as a whole are desirable places to come to work. People from all around the world actively seek jobs there. The local population only makes up less than 20% of Dubai, that means expats have to fill in important positions to run the Emirate.

The numero uno benefit of workin in Dubai? Absolutely NO TAXES.

Very competitive. Large pool of applicants and limited positions. You are going to be paid well for the skill-set you bring to the table.

Do you need a degree? Not necessarily. But if you have one you are going to be in top tier white collar positions. Dubai employers love big name universities, professional certifications and all the other bells and whistles you can put on your resume or CV.

Job offers are always fixed in duration (2 years, 5, 10, etc). Many have made lifelong careers out of initial job stints as well.

COMPONENTS OF THE SALARY STRUCTURE IN DUBAI

Moving to and from Dubai

When you are hired, your employer will mostly likely cover your initial trip to Dubai, relocation costs (shipping items) and your family’s travel. The same applies when you complete your employment contract and wish to head back home.


Basic Salary (Known as Base Salary in the USA)

This number is measured in terms of how much per month, not annually like they do in the USA. When I was looking around for jobs in Dubai, employers and recruiters used to ask me how much I made and I told them my usual response (which is in annual terms). Their reactions were priceless. It took me a while to adjust this instinctive response.

Bonuses and other perks can be based on this figure as those are paid in relative percentage basis.


Annual Bonuses

Bonuses used to be rare until the mid 2000 employment and economic boom in Dubai. Since then bonuses have become more popular, though not stated explicitly in employment contracts.

Bonuses can be performance related, fixed or upon meeting personal of company objectives. In my experience these amounts have been quite generous, but I recommend not relying on them unless your contract explicitly states it.

Like everything else, bonuses vary drastically from one company to another.


401k Plans

There was NO such thing before, but since late the 2000s this became increasingly popular, again to mimic the Western system. What Dubai has had for some time now is a severance package when you end your employment as a token of your loyalty and service.

This is typically a percentage of your basic salary or sometimes 20-30 days of pay. It is also referred to as the end of service benefit. You get this amount annually as well and it is deposited in your “deferral” account.


Insurance

Used to be non existent but the trend is becoming like the USA, where basic life insurance is provided by employers. Employees can then purchase incremental coverage. Health insurance works the same way. Employees pay a premium and a deductible type per visit charge each time they go to see a doctor. The insurance industry in Dubai is evolving and soon will become just like the USA.


Annual Vacation

This is typically in the 30 day range. I have seen this in the 40 day range as well as all the way to 2 full months, or 60 days. You can take it at any time and certainly can break it up to take a few days off here and there. In addition, you also get about 7 holidays and Fridays as the official day off. Many multi national companies have both Friday and Saturday off to mimic the 2 day weekend system in the West.


Accommodation Perks Employers used to provide housing for employees they recruited to come live in Dubai. But as time has progressed the trend is favoring giving housing allowances (cash) and allowing the employee to choose where they want to live.

Rents are super high in Dubai (despite the economic cycles). They are paid monthly and usually paid in advance. Some landlords will ask for a full year’s rent in advance. That is just how things are done in Dubai.

While I am a fan of allowing the employee to choose where they want to live, I am not a fan of the amount employers provide for housing allowance. Because of high rents, employees end up paying more out of pocket. So make sure you research rents and what you are getting in allowance to be able to properly evaluate your offer.

Because rents can fluctuate overnight, see if your employer would offer a moving allowance in case you have to relocate to save on rent. If you don’t have the money to pay rent upfront, you can borrow it from a lender (most times the landlord). They then tact on interest payments and your overall monthly payment will be higher.


Furniture Allowance

If your housing is provided for, chances are the furniture will come with it. Some employers simply offer a cash stipend so you can buy what you need. If you are renting, you can choose from furnished and non furnished apartments (non furnished are obviously cheaper). It is common not to receive any furniture allowance. I noticed this trend slowing down sometime in the mid 2000s. But, it doesn’t hurt to ask?


Utility Bills

Electricity, water, yard care, phone bills, etc are sometimes subsidized, reimbursed or free depending on your position. If your employer is providing your housing, chances are all your bills will be paid for as well. If you are renting and paying for it, you may or may not be offered part of full payment for utility bills. Something to consider when negotiating your total salary structure.


Transportation

Employers are known to pay for fuel for the most part. It is quite cheap (or cheaper rather relatively). Some employees are also given company cars (again depending on the nature of your position). Managerial employees can sometimes get nice luxury (Mercedes and BMW) cars from their companies.

Employers may opt to pay you a fixed cash stipend or provide the actual cars and a fuel card to swipe at the pump. If your job requires travel, you will be paid the expected per diem or your travel will be 100% covered (just depends on your employer’s preference).

There are some jobs that require you to already have a car. If that is the case, you will be reimbursed for the mileage you travel at about 60 fils per kilometer.


Education Allowance for Kids

Dubai schools are expensive. Most often you can expect a fixed tuition allowance per child per year. Managerial levels and above often send theirs kids abroad for school. This is all covered by employers in Dubai. Just one thing to keep in mind here, adopted children are usually not paid for, but this will soon change. Just double check if you have a child you adopt.


Airfare Back Home

It is not uncommon to receive one free trip back to your home country on an annual basis. For managerial level employees, often times a free ticket is also thrown in for their family members. Many employees choose to use this with the generous annual leave benefit. This is either paid in cash or paying for the actual ticket.


Salary Currency

Companies will mostly pay in Arab Emirate Dirhams (Dhs.). You can read more about Dubai currency here. This is just labor policy. There are some that will pay in Pounds or Dollars. These will either be multinational companies that recruit globally or companies that require you to travel significantly.


Overtime

There is no such thing with white collar salaried positions much like in the USA. Overtimes rates for blue collar work though are compensated at 1.25 times the regular hourly rate.


UAE Nationals

There are certain benefits that locals or nationals are entitled to. These benefits are mandated by the local labor law (varies by Emirate) and usually include child care allowance, a social allowance (free money essentially) and a general cost of living allowance.

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So the idea here is to get you familiarized as much as possible with the salary structure in Dubai. You will see many of these components during your job hunting / salary negotiation and you might not see others. It is also possible that you see all of them. Oh, it is also possible to get more than what is listed here. For example, your employer might pay for your gym membership?

In either case, knowing this information in advance should help you prioritize and decide what points are negotiable and what are not. Sometimes it is a matter of give and take in order to land your ideal job in Dubai.

Please do understand that although I have tried to detail as much as I can in specific terms, each and everything can vary depending on the company and industry you are dealing with. You can read more about Dubai jobs and the various industries and pays in this section.

Also keep in mind that you won’t get it until you ask. Again, knowing what components of the salary structure in Dubai exist, you can decide how you want to approach your employer when discussing a potential job move to Dubai.

Dubai is not a cheap place to live. Without the right total compensation package (along with some discipline), taking a job in Dubai could end up being a very bad move from a financial perspective. Proper planning, learning and approach is critical. You can read more about the cost of living in Dubai here.

IMPORTAN TIP: Take full time and caution reviewing an employment contract prior to signing it. Make sure you understand the different components of the salary structure in Dubai before reviewing your contract to fully understand it. Look for any stipulations, terms and conditions.

Always get an independently translated copy of the contract in your language (most contracts and legal documents are in Arabic). Do not sign an Arabic written contract until and unless you have read and understood the translated version. Use your judgment and engage a lawyer if you must.

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So do you feel like you are an expert by now? As you evaluate your offer, I just wanted to share one last thing to keep in the back of your head. Many that move to Dubai for short term job opportunities do so not only for the money, but also for the world-class experience.

In addition to good, solid compensation package, the sunny weather, diversity and international experience on your resume or CV is also something to consider. Hope you found this discussion beneficial!

Check out our Dubai Salaries Spreadsheet for reference

Dubai Salaries Spreadsheet







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