Western and Arab expats in Qatar still earn more money than their Asian counterparts, but the divide has been narrowing in recent years, new data shows.
White-collar salaries were up across the board in 2014, according to an annual survey by Gulf Business of recruitment firms in the region.
The publication compares salary information for 20 management-level positions in fields such as healthcare, real estate, human resources and media in all the GCC countries.
On average, an Asian expat working in a senior position in Qatar can expect to make 77 cents for every US$1 earned by his/her Western peers. That’s up from 75 cents in 2012.
Speaking to Gulf Business, Ian Giulianotti, director at Nadia Recruitment Consultants, said:
“That gap for people being paid by their nationality is changing very slowly and people are being paid more for their ability and the job role, but I don’t think it will ever be completely eradicated, not in my lifetime anyway.”
Western expats received the largest year-over-year salary hikes in 2014. The unweighted average salary of the 20 positions was $13,573 per month, up a little more than 10 percent over 2013.
That puts Western workers in Qatar slightly ahead of their expat Arab counterparts, who had the highest earnings among the three categories in last year’s survey.
The average monthly salary for Arab expats climbed 4 percent in 2014, to $13,021.
Asian expats, meanwhile, saw their average salary jump 9.6 percent to $10,489/month.
The hefty raises for Western and Asian wipe out pay decreases recorded in last year’s surveys. Recruiters said at the time that cost-conscious employers were making lower salary offers to incoming employees as positions turned over, lowering average compensation levels.
The salary increases recorded in the Gulf Business survey are higher than what was forecast in a report last September by consulting firm Aon Hewitt.
Using a slightly different methodology that appears to include more job positions, Aon Hewitt predicted pay packages in Qatar would increase 5.5 percent in 2014 and then go up another 5.1 percent this year.
All forms of discrimination are theoretically prohibited under Qatar’s constitution, but there are many anecdotal reports of employers paying people different salaries for the same work based on their race.
For example, pay discrimination was thought to be a motivating factor for a school bus driver strike in 2013 that left many parents scrambling to find alternative transportation.
At the time, Asian drivers at the company were paid significantly less than their Arab counterparts, and the striking drivers who walked off the job demanded better treatment and higher pay.
Some Qatar residents have argued that the country is divided along racial lines. Egyptian expat and blogger Mostafa Sheshtawy wrote in 2012 that a person’s status in Qatar is directly related to their country’s international standing.
“Qatar is the country where people ask you where are you from before what is your name,” he wrote.
Another report, meanwhile, suggests that some people believe that they’ll earn more money in the Gulf if they obtain citizenship from a western country.
Last fall, Al Arabiya reported that new, tougher rules for obtaining Canadian citizenship were frustrating some Arab immigrants living in the Gulf who dreamed of briefly leaving, obtaining a Canadian passport and then returning to higher salary in the Middle East.
Does your workplace discriminate with pay based on race? Thoughts?