Thursday, July 07, 2016

NGO Inequality

Feelings of unfair treatment in the workplace are common among Kenyan NGO employees – and not without reason. The humanitarian and development sectors are known for their differential treatment of expats and locals, with the latter receiving fewer benefits and considerably lower salaries compared to their foreign colleagues.

A circular sent out by the board highlighted this disparity, arguing that expats often earn four or five times more than their Kenyan counterparts. The document reported that “expatriates are often too quick to dismiss dual salary systems as a non-issue, and the subject of wage disparities is a taboo topic in the charity sector.”

The NGO Board CEO Fazul Mohamed criticized foreign NGO workers for “getting rich from the charity sector.” 

A survey of 1,300 local and expat workers found a wage gap that ranges from 400-900% and causes significant resentment among local workers. Research measured the size of the wage gap and its effects on workers in six lower-income countries: India, China, Malawi, Uganda, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. These organisations were drawn from the aid, education, government and business sectors of the six countries. Participants worked in a range of job roles, from teachers to engineers, to doctors and managers, with expertise in areas such as microfinance, child labour, program administration and much more. The organisations draw aid funding from governments and donors around the globe.

Imagine finding out that your colleagues earn five times more than you. Not only that, but they get all sorts of benefits you’re not eligible for. They take a month of leave; you get 12 days. Your employer pays for their accommodation, health insurance and even their children’s school fees; you don’t get any of that. But you have comparable skills and qualifications. You do the same work. In fact, you understand the context of your work better than your higher-paid colleagues. So why are they earning so much more than you? What if you found out it was simply because of your nationality? Dual salaries are popularly referred to in some Pacific countries as “economic apartheid”.

The wage and benefits gap cannot be explained by differences in experience or skills. Rather, dual salaries exist because expatriates originate from higher-income economies and labour markets.

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