What are you worth?

Compensation is one of the most important issues for any executive, but one of the hardest issues to address. ACN lifts the lid on CIO salary packages, and asks if the region's enterprises may be heading for a long-terms skills fall.

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By  Administrator Published  April 1, 2007

Salary is a sensitive issue for anyone - except film stars, for whom it becomes something of a status symbol. But for mere mortals, having a full and frank discussion about compensation is not an easy task; very few people will willingly disclose their pay package in a public forum, unless forced to by disclosure laws.

In the Middle East, the topic is even more complicated - and sensitive - thanks to the tendency of employers to set wages on nationality, not skill or experience. Aside from anything else, the political implications of this practice can get very involved.

And while salary is almost always one of the most important issues to people on a personal level, in the Middle Eastern IT industry it becomes a more critical issue. Enterprises are growing on the back of the current economic boom across much of the region, fuelling their demand for skilled professionals.

At the same time, some IT workers are complaining that the wages offered here in the Middle East are not competitive when set against salaries from the US and Europe. The cumulative effect of both of these trends is to drain the region of its best IT workers, while the demand for them continues to increase.

This problem is acute at the lower end of the scale, but it also affects top IT executives as well. For enterprises, recruiting and retaining effective IT managers is critical for the smooth running of the IT department. For senior IT managers themselves, the issues around receiving a competitive compensation package require no explanation.

To get to the bottom of this issue, ACN conducted its own straw poll of CIOs and senior IT managers in the Middle East. Many declined to respond to our requests for information on their salary levels, but a few felt able to share their views, and give an idea of their salary ranges - albeit anonymously.

First of all, then, how much does a CIO or equivalent earn in the Middle East? With a comparison figure for the US of up to US$175,000 a year (including bonuses, etc) for the most senior IT officer in a large enterprise, it seems that regional CIOs are not too far off the mark of their transatlantic colleagues, albeit with some help from the lack of personal taxes in much of the Gulf.

One IT manager gave his annual base salary as $136,000, while another estimated the range for Middle Eastern CIOs at $65,000 to $114,000 a year, depending on the size of the company. "My salary is competitive for what I could earn elsewhere but I benefit a great deal from it being tax free," comments one IT manager, based in Dubai.

But in terms of the total package on offer, the same executive was less satisfied: "The housing supplement (of $15,000 a year) is mediocre for the rising rent costs in Dubai. The health and life insurance are standards I always receive in my work; I am less satisfied that is does not cover my family. The bonus structure is rather ineffective as the company keeps changing courses and is not adjusting the bonus and thus achieving the bonus I expected may not be possible."

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