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Stamping Out The Racial Pay Divide

Stamping Out The Racial Pay Divide

More needs to be done to stamp out pay differences based on skin colour in the GCC, Robert Anderson.

Nothing becomes an issue until someone draws attention to it.

The Gulf Business Salary Survey had been published for years showing a clear disparity between the average monthly pay cheques of Western, Arab and Asian expatriates in the same position.

Yet it wasn’t until last year when we drew attention to the fact that it became a source of controversy.

Our opinion piece titled ‘Are You Paid According To Your Skin Colour?’ attracted mixed reaction when it revealed how much more Westerners were earning than Asian and Arab peers.

“However the reasoning is done, two people doing the same job should not get paid separately. You have other factors like experience, education, etc which can get someone more pay. But race/skin color should not be the deciding factor,” said one commenter.

Another argued that it was simply impacted by pay levels back home.

“Person A can get paid 20K a month back in their home country, Person B can get paid 16K in their home country. Both are offered a job for 17k. Person B takes it. Person A doesn’t bother. That’s all it is to me.”

By percentage difference the 2013 survey showed Western professionals in the GCC, in an average of 20 positions, earning 14.5 per cent more than their Arab colleagues, at $12,216 per month compared to $10,556 for the latter.

The disparity between Western and Asian professionals was even higher, with the former earning 29.6 per cent more than the latter’s average pay of $9,060 per month.

Clearly we did not expect the wage gap to disappear in a year, but we did see indications in our 2014 survey that it was decreasing.

This was most noticeable between Western and Arab salaries where on average the latter was found to earn only 2.38 per cent less at $11,117 per month than the former’s $11,385.

A reflection of increasing Arab salaries in the region, with an influx of talent from Lebanon and Jordan taking high-ranking positions formerly occupied by Westerners, according to our participating recruiters.

In comparison the difference between Western and Asian salaries had slightly decreased but was still sizeable, with the latter on average earning 27 per cent less at $8,673 per month.

While any reduction in pay disparity is encouraging, that these racial differences – a relic of expatriate and local hires systems in the 70s and 80s – still exist in the region is cause for concern.

And they are unlikely to go away in the short term, according to one of our participating recruiters.

”We’re not going to see it in a year or five years. I think it’s probably going to take about 10 or 15 years but those gaps will narrow to the point where we won’t have this differentiation, from middle management upwards,” said Ian Giulianotti, associate director HRM Consulting, Nadia.

Clearly more needs to be done, with the boot on the foot of businesses in the region, according to Gareth Clayton, director of financial and professional services at Charterhouse Middle East.

“It’s down to each organisation to implement a diversity drive and HR policy to reward based upon experience and performance,” he said.


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