p salaries at united nations

A place to discuss working at the United Nations from day to day conditions, benefits, entitlements, relations with the host country, social security, taxes - everything about the job, once you got the job!
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unwannabe
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p salaries at united nations

Post by unwannabe » 19 Nov 2019, 18:32

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what is your view on the compensation offered at the united nations?

UN linguist
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Re: p salaries at united nations

Post by UN linguist » 24 Nov 2019, 15:48

Hello, UNWannabe! You are asking two completely different questions here - the first, in the subject line, is about salaries, and the second, in the body of the question, is about compensation. At the UN, these are two very different things, particularly if you are internationally recruited, as the compensation package for internationally recruited staff covers far more elements than the package for locally recruited staff, for obvious reasons. An individual’s perspective on both will depend in large part on what they were earning before they joined the organization and where they come from.

If you come from a country where you have free health care at the point of delivery (which means that although it is paid for from your taxes, you don’t actually pay out for treatment when you see your doctor or have an operation in hospital, for example, and you never have to do any health-related paperwork), the UN health care system is going to seem very expensive and exceedingly onerous - the organization pays a tiny amount towards it, you pay a lot from your salary each month, then you pay an American-style contribution towards all your treatment, prescriptions and so on and a certain percentage is then reimbursed to you from the UN health fund, often after you have fought at length with the company that administers the fund. However, if you come from a country with no national or regional health system, the UN system is going to seem wonderful. So in my first UN job, for example, which was in a country which had no regional or national government-funded healthcare system, the UN health system seemed incredibly expensive (and the associated paperwork complex and never-ending) to me, whereas to my local colleagues it was like manna from above.

Similarly, if you come from a country where the state education system is free and excellent, and you wouldn’t dream of sending your children to private schools, then paying out for private education because you are working for the UN in a country where that is the only feasible option is going to seem really expensive, even taking the UN education grant into account. If you come from a country where someone doing your sort of job at your sort of level would automatically expect to educate your children privately, the UN education grant will seem like a great bonus.

As far as the salaries themselves are concerned, again it depends to a certain extent where you come from, what you were earning before you joined the organization and what you could reasonably expect to earn for a similar job in your home country. It is widely acknowledged that the UN has problems in recruiting economists, for example, from countries such as the UK, US, France, Germany and Japan, because they can earn more in their home countries. On the other hand, the UN prides itself on only recruiting the ‘crème de la crème’ of translators globally and it pays them better than they would ever earn elsewhere. That said, I was asked last week to tot up the hours that I had worked in addition to my contractual hours in the previous six weeks and it came to 176 hours (yes, in addition to my normal working hours, although admittedly that was unusually high), so if you were to take what looks like an extremely generous salary and divide it by the number of hours actually worked, it wouldn’t look anywhere near as generous.

Other parts of the UN (other than the Secretariat) are far more generous with their overall compensation packages and even over things like travel (the WHO, for example, is far more generous with its travel rules, which makes a huge difference to your comfort, health and ability to function both in and out of work if you travel on mission frequently). Other multinational and supranational organizations are, as well - for example, the European Union is significantly more generous with its salaries and benefits (when working there, I had home leave twice a year; with the UN I have it once every two years and it is far less generously paid; for my current duty station it used to be once a year, but it was changed several years back, apparently to save money on staff home leave, because if anything it’s even more dangerous now than it used to be, which is very clearly reflected in the UN’s weekly staff security advisories).

Most of all there’s the fact that you are never really ‘at home’ - every year it is a huge fight to get my leave request approved to be able to spend a few weeks to spend with my friends, godchildren and family in my own country over Christmas and New Year. Is it worth it? As the years go on, my career rolls along and I get closer to retirement, the more I feel it isn’t and that my commitment to the organization is increasingly greater than its commitment to me, and that really saddens me.

So is the salary and the compensation package generous? Is it enough, given all that is piled up on the other side of the balance? That’s for each staff member to judge, but the saying that the grass always looks greener on the other side really is worth bearing in mind when you’re on the outside looking in.

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