61% of workers expect a salary increase this year

Almost a quarter hope for 10% rise, but job security still a worry.

Workers in the UAE are more optimistic that their wages will rise in the coming year after suffering pay freezes during the past 12 months, but many remain concerned about job security. Of those polled during the YouGovSiraj survey, 61 per cent said they expected a salary increase, with almost a quarter hoping for a rise of more than 10 per cent.

Yet in spite of growing confidence about their own prospects, the threat of redundancy still looms over many workers. In the survey, 45 per cent of those polled were "somewhat concerned" about their jobs, while 30 per cent were "extremely concerned". Amid widespread nervousness about the stability of the economy, 49 per cent said they had deferred a major purchase during the past year. A significant number were also feeling the effects of pay freezes, with 54 per cent saying their salary last year had stayed at 2008 levels. Only 12 per cent suffered a pay cut.

Even among the well-off, many said they had felt the impact of price increases and dwindling disposable income. Will Hean, 43, is an investment director at Kenmore Property Group, and lives with his family in a villa in Jumeirah, which he rents for Dh250,000 (US$68,066) a year. "Cost of living-wise, we still find it expensive," he said. "Even though it's tax-free, by the time you send a couple of kids to school and pay for all the other bits and pieces, you're not left with much to save. We're also conscious of the fact that food prices have gone up a lot in the last year. But it's all relative to everywhere else in the world - in the UK, salaries have fallen and tax has gone up." Despite the recent downturn, many say their salaries and standards of living are still far better in the UAE than elsewhere.

"I came to Dubai recently because I got married and my husband works here," said Tatum Debendre, 28, who works in Human Resources and comes from Sri Lanka. "Where I come from we are worse off, and things are better here as there are more jobs and living standards are higher," said Mrs Debendre, who lives in Al Barsha, Dubai. "We want to stay here for five years, as my husband is doing well." Others, especially those who kept their jobs through the financial crisis, are more upbeat. Sabri Pozam, 30, who runs an audit company in Dubai, said that while he thought the overall picture was improving, his new worry was the rising cost of living.

"It is stable compared to last year, however I still feel a bit insecure about the local economy, especially in the GCC," he said. "Salaries have gone down but prices are still high." Some are not so sure. Cary Michael, 32, from the Philippines, is an office assistant at Abu Dhabi Investment Council. He worries about losing his job, but is glad to have survived the worst of the downturn. "I'm a contractor for an agency," he said. "It's more stable now because I've been working for them for almost four years. Will I lose my job? I hope not."

Despite his concerns, Mr Michael's salary has increased since he has been in the Emirates. "Every contract that we finish, they increase the salary, but not too much." agiuffrida@thenational.ae