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So who is earning all the money?

Jackie Beedie

A survey by HSBC was published this week which determined that the average expat salary in Bahrain is $123,000 per annum. Really! That is BD3,875 a month. 
Now I know a lot of expats in Bahrain and I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the number who are possibly earning more than that. But that is supposed to be the average salary, I wonder how they calculated it. 
Let us assume that the population of Bahrain is 1.5 million people and there are 600,000 Bahrainis. That leaves 900,000 expats. Now from that figure we have to deduct wives and children who do not work, but since the vast majority of expats are on bachelor status that figure is probably about 250,000. So we have a working expat population of approximately 650,000. If HSBC’s figures are correct and the average salary is $123,000 that means that the expats in Bahrain have a combined earning of $80 billion. Something’s not right here when you consider that the actual gross domestic product of Bahrain is only about $34bn.
As I hinted at the top of this column, this survey and these figures are completely bogus. First, it cannot have taken into account all expats especially the vast majority who are earning less than BD200 a month. I suspect that, as it was HSBC, it has only surveyed those who are members of their premium banking scheme for which you have to earn more than $100,000 a year to qualify. I expect the survey went something like this: ‘Dear premier member please can you tell me what your annual salary is?’ Then when they had got 10 answers in from senior bankers they came to the conclusion that on average expats were earning $123,000.
This highlights the problem with these types of surveys. They are announced in a way that is likely to grab headlines and be published prominently, but do not release details of how they arrived at the conclusion. HSBC did say they received information from over 27,000 expats across the globe, but did not say which nationalities they were or their jobs. They also did not say how many they interviewed in Bahrain before releasing such a preposterous figure. A truer statement would have been ‘The average salary for expats at senior level in the banking industry in Bahrain is $123,000 per annum, based on feedback from 20 people’.
I am not in the banking industry and so am not going to develop a massive inferiority complex about why I am not earning even close to the average salary. I will be helped in this by the realisation that the vast majority of my friends are not earning even close to this. I have performed a quick and dirty survey amongst many of my acquaintances and have deduced that many of us are paid much less than that but we are not complaining as we still think we are doing OK. However as the figure quoted was an average then one or two people earning obscene amounts of money could influence the final figure and to be honest I think I know who they are.

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