If you’re looking for work in the United Arab Emirates, you’ll be happy to hear that the country hires the majority of its workforce from overseas. As a result, expats work in fields ranging from teaching to nursing to air traffic control. Given this variation, there isn’t an average salary in the UAE.
That said, there are a range of factors that determine salary, as well as the rights, options, and penalties facing employees and employers.
To learn all about wages in the UAE, read on for the following sections:
- The minimum wage in the United Arab Emirates
- Penalties for late or unpaid salaries
- The average salary in the United Arab Emirates
- The gender pay gap in the UAE
- Salaries and wages for expats in the United Arab Emirates
- What to do if your salary is too low in the UAE
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The minimum wage in the United Arab Emirates
Billing itself as an international business hub, the United Arab Emirates attracts businesses that bring employees from all around the world, from Bangladesh and Mexico to Ireland and Canada.
However, because the business landscape is so attractive, there is little regulation in key areas of employee rights. For instance, there is currently no minimum wage in the UAE, but the government has been considering its implementation.
For high-income expats, a lack of salary standards could mean more room to comfortably negotiate remuneration packages. This is because businesses are aware that they need to make an attractive offer to persuade such workers to leave their home country and live in a more restrictive culture.
Therefore, many expats find that their salaries in the UAE are as high, and often much higher, than they would be in their home countries. Some find themselves hired for positions that are much more senior than they would qualify for back home, too.
For low-income expats, unfortunately, a lack of a minimum wage means that employers set the conditions without regulation. Even though the UAE government says that employers and employees should agree on the terms of employment, most embassies of countries that provide migrant work will set salary expectations for various jobs. This is a form of regulation, which most employment agencies respect.
Low-income expats, often from Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent, usually take jobs such as drivers, house-help, construction workers, and so on. Even though the UAE passed its first bill protecting domestic workers’ labor rights in 2017, horror stories of financial, emotional, and physical abuse still abound.
Penalties for late or unpaid salaries
Even though there is no minimum wage, the UAE government has set some rules about how and when salaries should be paid. Furthermore, it has established penalties for delayed or unmade payments.
Employers must register with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization and subscribe to and pay employees through the Wages Protection System. Salaries should be transferred directly to an employee’s bank or financial institution within 15 days of the salary due date; otherwise, they are considered late.
If an employer hasn’t transferred the payment within a month of the salary due date, the salary is considered unpaid. Employers who make late payments or who do not pay their employees face penalties which can include fines, a ban on issuing work permits, and being taken to court.
The average salary in the United Arab Emirates
There is no accurate way to determine average wages and salaries in the United Arab Emirates, simply because there are such polar differences within this desert nation. Your salary depends on your line of work, but it also depends on your work experience, your employer, and, unfortunately, your passport.
Keep in mind that salaries in the UAE often take into account several expenses; these include travel stipends (plane tickets home), housing subsidies, paid vacation, and other benefits. Dubai ranks eleventh among the top global cities for the highest expat salaries in the world.
Average salary in the UAE by sector
- Finance and Accounting: from AED 10,000 (Junior Accountant) to AED 130,000 (Regional CFO)
- Banking and Financial Services: from AED 15,000 (Regulatory Analyst) to AED 155,500 (Head of Consumer Banking)
- Digital: from AED 10,000 (Graphic Designer) to AED 90,000 (Chief Digital Officer)
- Technology: from AED 12,000 (Support Engineer) to AED 130,000 (Chief Information Officer)
- Oil and Gas: from AED 32,000 (Quality Assurance Manager) to AED 48,000 (Liquefied Natural Gas Manager)
For more information, read the latest study on average salaries in the UAE.
Salary checker in the United Arab Emirates
Visit Glassdoor if you are interested in industry standards for salaries.
The gender pay gap in the UAE
In terms of gender equality across pay, the Emirati government recently passed a bill ensuring equal wages for male and female colleagues. Compared to the rest of the world, the UAE ranks 68th in the 2022 Global Gender Gap Index. This means that despite best efforts on the part of the government, and despite outperforming many fellow Gulf countries, women continue to earn less for similar work.
Salaries and wages for expats in the United Arab Emirates
88.4% of the people living in the UAE are expats. Because they hail from all over the world, it is not possible to mention average wages based on nationality. Instead, your salary will generally depend on your educational and work background, your employer, your nationality, and other pertinent facts. Industries that hire the bulk of new workers include healthcare or medical services, human resources, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).
What to do if your salary is too low in the UAE
Because the government maintains that employment conditions are matters for the employer and employee, once you have signed an employment contract, there is little you can do without renegotiating it. You can, however, always reach out to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, where you can learn more about your rights and options.