Promoting equality for aid workers

Carrying waterMay 2011

Project ADD-UP, a three-year research project examining differences in pay between local workers and expatriate workers, was instrumental in setting up the first global task force to tackle the issue.

According to the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, local workers and expatriate workers should be on similar pay scales. However, expatriate aid workers worldwide are paid more than local colleagues.

Project ADD-UP (Are Development Discrepancies Undermining Performance) tested the impact of this discrepancy on local workers' motivation in the health, education and business sectors of six countries: Malawi, Uganda, India, China, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. The project was jointly funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and ESRC Scheme for Research on International Poverty Reduction.

The project, which is led by Massey University and Trinity College Dublin, revealed that on average, expatriate aid workers get four times more money than local employees for doing a similar job. This is not a question of different levels of experience or skills, but rather that expatriates simply originate from higher income economies. The researchers found that dual salaries perpetuate dominance and injustice, and undermine pride.

The project made a convincing case for the need for change by bringing together an inter-disciplinary research team from ten different countries, who talked to over 1300 professional workers and community representatives from 200 aid, government, educational and business organisations. As a result of the research, Project ADD-UP has been instrumental in setting up the first global task force to tackle the issue.

Impact

  • The research was instrumental in setting up The Global Task Force for Humanitarian Work Psychology - an international network of researchers and practitioners from lower, middle and higher income countries working together to promote and build capacity in lower income countries
  • The Task Force is applying humanitarian principles in work settings through multilateral bodies such as the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation, as well as policy think-tanks like OECD
  • The Task Force has just made its first full submission to the United Nations, through the UN's call for fresh perspectives on the Millennium Development Goals.

Further information