Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Mercenaries, or paid soldiers, have played a key role in warfare for centuries. However, as global conflicts become increasingly privatized, new opportunities have been created for proxy fighters from Africa, Latin America and even Eastern Europe. Most of these mercenaries toil for $1,000 to $16,000 per month. For former military personnel who sign up with private security firms in hot spots like Iraq, the returns are far better, averaging $550 to $1,500 per day.
The collapse of security after the Iraq war resulted in a fivefold profit growth for private security firms, whose profits rose from $350 million to roughly $2 billion, the BBC reported in 2004. Despite the risks, even small firms reported taking five job inquiries per day. These firms' employees could expect $550 per day or more. By contrast, Peruvian mercenaries hired to provide security made $1,000 per month, or less than a tenth of their American counterparts, according to the World Socialist website.
The role of private security firms like Blackwater has proved controversial, not least for the uneven working conditions that its hired mercenaries experience. According to the Taipei Times, Americans, Britons and South Africans posted in Baghdad's Green Zone earned $8,000 to $16,000 per month, versus $3,000 for Nepalese Gurkas. Peruvians and their peers from Colombia, Mexico and Panama earned the least, but stayed longest on the job. While American mercenaries are rotated every 90 days, the South Americans must sign up for year-long tours.
Hiring mercenaries to remain in power is a favored tactic of dictators like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. Faced with an uprising against his 42-year rule in February 2011, Gadhafi recruited mercenaries from impoverished nations with economic and political ties to his regime, such as Guinea, Mali and Nigeria. The promise of earning $2,000 per day is attractive to countries like Nigeria, whose annual gross domestic product per capita is only $250 more than Gadhafi's reported offer, according to an analysis posted on Consultancy African Intelligence's website.
United Arab Emirates
Mercenaries are also attractive to stable nations. The United Arab Emirates hired Blackwater founder Erik Prince to create an 800-member battalion to deal with terrorist attacks, as well as repress signs of potential rebellion, the New York Times reported in May 2011. Prince, in turn, recruited more than 40 former American, European and South African commandos as advisers for $200,000 to $300,000 per year. Most of the recruits were former Colombian police and military officers, who earned $150 per day.
- BBC News; Iraq's Mercenaries; Riches for Risks; Chris Murphy; April 2004
- The New York Times; Secret Desert Force Set Up...; Mark Mazzetti and Emily B.Hager; May 2011
- Taipei Times; Peru Mercenaries Battle Boredom in Green Zone; August 2006
- World Socialist Website; Latin American Mercenaries Guarding...; Caesar Uco; December 2005
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.