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Rising cost of living hits Gulf IT workers

Inflation and a lack of pay rises causing half of all Gulf IT workers to plan on changing jobs within two years

Over half of all IT workers in the GCC are planning on changing jobs within the next two years, according to the 2008 Arabianbusiness.com Salary Survey. The survey found that 55.4% of IT workers aim to move job in two years, with 71.8% of all respondents saying they are more likely to change jobs now than they were last year.

The biggest concern of IT personnel in the region, in line with most other sectors, is the growing burden of inflation in the region and the associated rising cost of living. 71.6% of respondents felt that they were underpaid, and 61.4% said they did not expect their salary to keep up with inflation.

Of those workers who said they were planning to change jobs within two years, 30.4% said it was because of the rising cost of living, and 21.9% cited lack of pay rise. 13.4% of would be job-seekers also saw an increasing number of opportunities in other markets. Opportunities for promotion (33.3%) and pay (32.8%) were the most important factors in any new job, while share options and training are considered the least important factors.

Nearly 9,000 respondents completed the Arabianbusiness.com Salary Survey online, with over 1,300 respondents working in the GCC in IT roles, or employed in the IT sector. A wide range of roles were represented in the survey, including CIOs, database, website and network administrators, consultants, engineers, IT managers, systems analysts and programmers, project managers and sale roles. All sectors were represented, including banking and finance, communications, construction, education, government, energy, real estate, healthcare, hospitality and FMCG.

In terms of ethnicity, Indian nationals made up 37% of Gulf IT respondents, with Gulf nationals making up 13.5%. Arab nationals from outside of the Gulf accounted for 20% of jobs, and Pakistanis for 9%. The majority of survey respondents were based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Average basic pay for the IT industry was lower than overall average for all sectors that were surveyed, with almost half (49.9%) of respondents paid less than $35,000 per year, compared to 39.4% for all industries, with 22.8% of Gulf IT respondents paid $20,000 or less. For the wider Middle East region, (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Palestine) 49% of respondents were paid less than $20,000.

The IT industry also failed to rate in the top ten best paid industries, and no IT roles outside of top level management featured in best paid positions. Just 8.7% of IT respondents said they have a basic salary of more than $100,000.

The best paid IT roles, outside of general management, were CIOs, with 40.7% of CIOs reporting basic pay of over $100,000, and sales managers, with 17% claiming the same. Among the worst paid roles, those getting less than $20,000 per year, were computer operators (53.3%), webmasters (46.4%) and database administrators (42.8%).

Qatar reported the highest percentage of top earners, with 16% of respondents paid more than $100,000 per year, while Bahrain had the highest proportion of lowest earners, with 35% earning under $20,000.

IT pay in the Gulf is somewhat behind the US, although as the survey did not measure actual salaries a true comparison is not possible. The overall average US IT salary was $74,500 according to a January 2008 survey from US IT careers website Dice, compared to only 15% of Gulf survey respondents who said they were paid more than $80,000 per year.

Project managers in the US earned on average $101,000 with only 5.56% of Gulf respondents reporting a similar or higher level of pay; for top level IT executives, levels are closer to their US counterparts, with 41.9% of Gulf respondents earning over $100,000 against a US average of $107,000.

For more on the survey, and to see where your salary fits with the industry average, see the report here.

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