Security guards: low at the salary scale and not climbing - 4 Jan, 2010

Image by pmocek via Flickr

The failed bomb attack on an airliner flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25 has put the airport security firmly in the limelight. How could Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab get on board in the plane with a potential bomb? 

Security in both Schiphol and Detroit airports came under scrutiny and security guards found themselves suddenly in the middle of an anti-terror and media war. 

Attention shifted fast to technology, as airports thought deploying and purchasing full body scans would offer a solution. But the position of the men and women in the front line of airport security, the security guards, got only marginal attention, although their services - with or without full body scans - will remain crucial for airport security. 

Data of the WageIndicator tell us that security guard is a dead-end job, with pay hardly over a minimum wages and almost no career perspective. We could retrieve salary information from The Netherlands, Germany and the United States for security guards. Elsewhere in the WageIndicator countries, not enough valid data are available yet for this occupation. 

Right after the failed attack, ex-security staff at Schiphol Amsterdam talked to the media (here in a translation from the Dutch daily newspaper The Telegraaf) about what they perceived as a failing security operation, lack of resources and training, despite their official vow not to reveal details about the security:

"The public interest is greater than my personal interest," explains Belinda Kreugel from, who until recently worked at gate G4S at Schiphol. "There are so many things that are not right. The risk flights to America are controlled by beginners, agency workers with a security certificate that is just enough to work as a security guard in a shop. In a course of two weeks you will learn how to search people and how a gun can be recognized by X-ray image, and that's it. No further courses, no training. Three quarters of the people is not yet one year in service. Then they are too expensive.

In the Netherlands the media debate further ignored these complaints and focused on technology. In the US the debate quickly politicized into the questions whether the staff of the authority in charge, the TSA, could be allowed to unionized or not.   But, with or without a union, airports seem to prefer to spend more money on full body scanners in stead of real people. In the Netherlands, a starting security guard of 25 years old earn earns 13.39 euro gross per hour, although the variation is rather large: it varies from a minimum of 9.56 euro to 23,29 gross per hour. The minimum wage in the Netherlands is 8.72 per hour. Getting a supervisory position does improve the salary with on average 3 euro per hour, but only 7 percent of the security staff gets a chance to move up. Agency workers, who leave within one year, most likely are not included in the data. Experience hardly counts: Dutch security guards with 20 years of experience get 3 euro more compared to starters, i.e. plus 30 percent. The only comfort for security guards at Schiphol Airport is that guards abroad earn even less. In Germany their gross earnings per hour are about 11 euro and gender or a supervisory position does not change the salary. 20 Years of experience makes a difference of less than 1 euro or less 10 percent change. Detroit airport security guards would even be worse off. Their wages start at USD 7.93 (euro 5.49) and are on average USD 12.34(euro 8.54). The minimum wage in Michigan is USD 7.40 (euro 5.13).

What are you earning. Are you a security guard and do you want to improve our data on your and your colleagues salary? Do go to the WageIndicator of your country and fill in our questionnaire.  

You can find the Dutch WageIndicator here, here is the German Lohnspiegel, and the US Paywizard. 


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