Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Imagine if you were earning Dh1,000 every month. How would you cope with the various costs? Do you think you would be able to save any money?

Gulf News spoke to people who earn between Dh1,000 to Dh5,000 in a month to see if it was possible. But, firstly, what are the professions that fall in these income brackets?

Jeremiah Jasher Johnraj, marketing manager at a recruitment company in Dubai, broke it down to specific income brackets and what profession is most likely to fall within each category.

He said: “These are some of the professions that fall in the salary brackets. It is not an exhaustive list, but includes the popular ones in those specific brackets.”

Income brackets

• Dh1,000 and below: Unskilled or construction workers, helpers, cleaners and factory workers.

• Dh1,000 – Dh2,000: Skilled and semi-skilled workers, waiters, bellboys, steel fixers, carpenters, masons, painters.

• Dh2,000 – Dh3,000: Commis chef, restaurant supervisors, foreman, mechanical technicians, junior chefs and land surveyor.

• Dh3,000 – Dh4,000: Draughtsman, earthwork foreman, junior accountants, junior sales advisors, technicians, plumbers and electricians.

• Dh4,000 – Dh5,000: Store assistant, junior executive or administrator, document controller, male nurse, officer of finance, accounts and administration, retail sales executives, recruitment consultants, banking and sales, tellers, telesales executives, tele collection agents, sales coordinators and sous chefs.

• Dh5,000 – Dh6,000: Site surveyor, civil foreman, safety officer, survey engineer, quantity surveyor, draughtsman, store managers, sales and business development executives, senior recruitment consultants and junior engineers.


How many people in the UAE are a part of these categories? According to Johnraj, an estimated breakdown for the working population of the UAE, is as follows:

• Dh1,000 and below: 30 per cent

• Dh1,000 – Dh2,000: 20 per cent

• Dh2,000 – Dh3,000: 15 per cent

• Dh3,000 – Dh4,000: 15 per cent

• Dh4,000 – Dh5,000: 12 per cent

• Dh5,000 and above: 8 per cent

While the cost of living is at the higher end, we take a look at how people working in the above income brackets manage their budgets, considering house rent, school fees, shopping for groceries and settling utility bills.

Range: Dh1,000 to Dh2,000

Kenneth Anikpe, a Nigerian national working as a cleaner in Dubai, manages to save Dh500 every month, despite his low salary.

How is this possible?

He said: “I learnt how to adjust and manage my finances. On average, my food budget is Dh250 a month. I cook on a weekly basis to save more. I don’t buy expensive things, since I have brought enough for my personal needs from my home country, such as clothes. At the moment, I don’t send money to my parents since they’re independent and earning.”

Living alone in Dubai, he is paying Dh300 for a bed space every month. He allocates Dh150 for his utility bills and Dh20 for internet. The remaining balance is kept for miscellaneous spending. He doesn’t have to pay for transportation as he walks to his office. He is on a tight budget for now, as he plans to tie the knot next year.

He said: “My fiancée is working as a barrister so I just send her money, whenever she needs it and on occasions. I plan to go back to Nigeria next year to get married and bring my wife here, so I have to be frugal.”

To earn a little extra for now, he has joined an online networking company to promote organic products. Although he is a graduate of hotel and hospitality management, he is not ashamed to work as a cleaner.

He said: “It is temporary. After my two-year contract is over, I’ll apply in the hospitality industry to earn a decent income, and hope to work here for at least five years. No matter what your condition is right now, God has greater plans for you. So don’t quit.”

Farooq Hussain, an Indian electrician in Dubai, also earns in the same income bracket. And on this pay, he supports his family, which includes his father, mother, wife and two children, who live in his home country.

He said: “I don’t have to pay for accommodation or utilities, it is provided by the company. I do send around Rs20,000 (Dh997) home every month and around Dh400 is spent on groceries. After all other expenses, I manage to save about Dh100 in a month, which is also not the case when I decide to go out with friends for a meal.”

He believes that saving while earning so little is not possible. He is managing to support his family for now, but doesn’t know how much longer it will be possible or what he will be doing in the future.

Range: Dh2,000 to Dh3,000

Felix Gitonga, a Kenyan national working as a mechanical engineer in Dubai, is one of five siblings in his family and helps them all financially. His parents, both teachers in Kenya, require help for the monthly expenses, especially for his younger brother’s university fees.

Gitonga said: “My three elder brothers are also working in Kenya, but I feel it is my responsibility to help my parents. I send at least Dh800 to them per month. Apart from that, I spend between Dh400-Dh600 on food every month.

"My company provides me with accommodation and transport. And I am thus able to save around Dh800. This isn’t very difficult for me to manage with because at my last job, I was earning half the salary.”

Range: Dh3,000 to Dh4,000

Regina Victoria Lagapa, a Filipina national working as an aesthetician at a salon in Dubai, finds it tough to save money at the end of the month, due to her responsibilities.

She said: “I send Dh500 to my parents in the Philippines and also support my 12-year-old niece for her schooling expenses, since her father passed away in 2011.”

She is living with some relatives, but pays Dh550 monthly for bed space and groceries cost around Dh250 in a month, in addition to Dh50-100, which is spent on items for personal hygiene. On public transport, she spends Dh160 and the internet costs Dh50 monthly.

She said: “To cope with the heavy costs, I buy in bulk. For example, I buy four packs of toothpaste at Dh10 and buy any shampoo that is on promotion. I purchase secondhand apparels, which would mean getting a good shirt for Dh10.”

Despite not being able to save any money, she has managed to invest in property in the Philippines after having worked in the UAE for nine years.

She said: “I am paying Dh1,400 monthly for this home loan, which is payable for 10 years. So I have to reduce my spending. Luckily, my father is growing vegetables for trade and tending his rice farm now and my mother is working in our village’s health centre.”

She intends to stay in Dubai for another 10 years to pay off her loan. Her saving tips: “Budget properly. Don’t be an impulsive buyer. Buy within your means. Save for your future, and build your dream home.”

Range: Dh4,000 to Dh5,000

Mubashira A., an Indian national working as a lab technician at a school in Sharjah, is currently supporting her family of four, including her husband and two children, one of them being of school-going age.

She said: “My daughter studies in the same school I work in, so I end up getting a good discount. But, my husband is currently not working.”

So, the family is managing on just her salary. While he had a job, her husband would send Rs20,000 (Dh997) home, but it was difficult to do so all of last year, as the other expenses were higher. On monthly groceries, they spend between Dh500-Dh600 on average, electricity bills add up to another Dh600 during the summer months and their home rent is around Dh2,000 per month.

She said: “Because my husband isn’t working now, we don’t have any savings. It is currently very difficult to manage. My family is very understanding. They have been supportive and know we have a lot of bills to pay here, so they are waiting for things to get better before we start remitting money again.”

Her brother also works and lives in the UAE and has been supportive financially during this tough time.

Range: Dh5,000 - Dh6,000

Fatima, who works at an engineering firm in Abu Dhabi and whose full name is withheld on request, has two school-going children. And on her current salary, she ends up saving nothing at the end of the month.

She said: “Our monthly rent is Dh3,500 and we end up spending around Dh1,500 on grocery. My husband usually does the week’s grocery on the weekend, and I buy only urgent things that are needed at home during the week. The utility bills add up to about Dh400 in a month and my children’s monthly school fees is Dh2,000.”

Luckily, she says, her husband has a better job and is earning more than she is. Between the two of them, they manage all the budgeting and bills, but the overall household savings are still close to nothing.

She said: “We remit around Dh1,000 to our families in our home country every month. And in some months, after all the bills, there is nothing left. Compared to earlier, say 10 years ago, things have changed. We were saving a lot of money then, but now, it is very less. The increasing costs and school fees has made it hard.”