AED 1,200 was my ﬁrst salary in a well-known ﬁve-star luxury hotel, working six days a week, 14-16 hours a day as a waitress. There were days when I couldn’t go for a break because the restaurant was busy or I had to extend my working hours (which started at 7am) till midnight because of understafﬁng. Yes, three meals per day were provided by the company, so was transportation to and from work with a shuttle bus, insurance and work uniform, as well as accommodation with seven people in one apartment and me - sharing a 30 sqm room with another girl.
Why did I leave my AED10,000 (EUR 2,500) job back in Europe behind, you might ask? Because I knew I’d make it in Dubai. And after six years, I pretty much have, if you consider that my basic salary is now (after all these years) ﬁnally equal to the one that I made in Europe.
Despite the at-ﬁrst-sight-attractive paycheck, hospitality is still one of the lowest paid and least appreciated industries out there (construction workers aside).
As per the recent salary survey released by Kingston Stanley, the market average for my role is between AED20,000 to AED 35,000. A number which you can only dream of in the hospitality sector. In an agency perhaps, yes. But when you show these numbers to your employer or human resources team in hope of a raise, you might as well talk to the wall. The answer will inevitably be along the lines of: “If you don’t like, you can leave. Everyone is replaceable.” Yes, you can replace me with a cheaper employee, but you’ll surely not replace my expertise, contacts and the quality of the work that I produce.
Coming back to the AED 1,200 paycheck, what can you even afford with that money? Well certainly not dining outside the staff cafeteria more than twice a month. Even then, you can forget about a cocktail with your meal. I’m talking about keeping the dining experience as low key as a salad or a sandwich and an orange juice. Why? Because the lion’s share of your salary goes towards your household and hygiene items, transportation (should you want to get out of the shared accommodation to visit a park), and the other half will be sent home to support your family. Forget about savings. You’re literally living from paycheck to paycheck, praying that the salary will be on time this month (which in Dubai is often not the case).
As well as being underpaid, we are made to work outrageous hours, which often (and in most cases) are not paid because you’re expected to go above and beyond for the guests.
Frankly speaking, I don’t care about the guests! I’m here to make money and feed my family. We work to live, not vice versa.
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