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How much do you need to live a decent life in Dubai?

Considering the cost of living in Dubai, an employee needs to earn at least Dh4,000 a month to lead a balanced life

Gulf News

Dubai: Although there are many people who manage to survive with very little money, residents in Dubai need to earn at least Dh4,000 a month in order to lead a decent life, a financial expert says.

Compensation and benefits in the UAE vary depending on the industry, company or job role.

According to the 2010 salary guide of Charterhouse, a global executive recruitment firm, top positions like chief executive officers in the banking (consumer) sector command gross monthly paychecks between Dh100,000 and Dh150,000.

A country head's monthly salary is even higher, hovering between Dh130,000 and Dh170,000. Those in the lower ranks, like product officers, are receiving between Dh10,000 and Dh20,000.

At the bottom of the pay scale, however, the picture looks different.

Receptionists and secretaries are receiving between Dh2,500 and Dh8,000, while office workers are earning between Dh2,000 and Dh6,000 a month as of last year, according to

But as seen in Gulf News appointments, for secretaries having bilingual skills and proficient in computer and shorthand with years of experience in a multinational, the salary could be between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000.

Gardeners receive Dh500 to Dh1,500, labourers get Dh600 to Dh1,500 and maids or nannies earn Dh700 to Dh2,000 a month.

Balanced life

Considering the cost of living in Dubai, an employee needs to earn at least Dh4,000 a month to lead a balanced life, according to Steve Gregory, director of technical services of Holborn Assets.

"I wish there would be a minimum salary of at least Dh4,000 per month for all staff in Dubai, but it would require a GCC agreement and would make the GCC less competitive. Of course, many of the billionaires and millionaires in Dubai might easily pay such minimum wages," he adds.

If companies can't afford to meet the ideal minimum salary requirement, Gregory says they should at least get on board with corporate social responsibility, like footing the costs of their staff's accommodation, food or transportation needs.

He points out, though, that not all firms are paying rock-bottom wages. Some also don't differentiate between nationality if the employee is capable of the same work as any other staff, while others even go as far as providing genuine benefits to employees, like free bi-weekly gym sessions with a qualified fitness trainer and daily work lunches.

Spending habits

"At the other end of the scale there are companies that pay next to nothing as salary and charge for employment visas against the salary. Which type of employer would you give your all to? Which type of company will flourish in the long term? I suggest it will be those with a social conscience and corporate social responsibility," says Gregory.

However, the ability to save depends not only on per capita income or the size of the paycheck, but also the kind of lifestyle and spending habits of an individual.

"It's all about lifestyle and how you spend rather than how much you earn. Many people in Dubai have accommodation free but low salaries and save more than the richer people...

"You can survive in Dubai on Dh1,000 per month. You can thrive on Dh5,000 or more. You can still end up in prison for debt if your salary is over Dh20,000. Some do," Gregory tells Gulf News.


Salary range in certain positions (in UAE dirhams, excluding benefits)

Position: Low-High

Hospitality (resorts and hotels)

General manager: 25,000 - 45,000
Front office/reservations/ restaurant/ bar manager: 5,000 - 15,000

Banking (corporate)
Head of corporate banking/ wholesale bank/region: 90,000 - 100,000
Trade documents processor: 7,000 - 13,000

Chief executive officer: 60,000 - 150,000
Junior quantity surveyor: 10,000 - 14,000

Source: Charterhouse

Average salaries for various positions

Position: Low - High
Cabin crew: 5,000  - 10,000
Personal assistant: 2,000 - 25,000
Receptionist, secretary: 2,500 - 8,000
Labourer: 600 - 1,500
Office worker: 2,000 - 6,000
Gardener: 500 - 1,500
Maid, nanny: 700 - 2,000