Will a Job in China Pay Enough?

Posted by | 2014-10-02 | Working in China

Hopefully your pay packet will not look only like this. Photo credit:

“Would working in China me enough to make it worth relocating?” — this is the million dollar question, or rather, x thousand RMB question!

Moving abroad is a big decision, whether it is to China or anywhere that is far away and has a totally different language and culture. One key thing to make sure of before committing to any China position is whether or not you will be paid well enough.

China’s rise as an economic powerhouse has resulted in many people jumping at the opportunity to live in the likes of Shanghai and Beijing. And quite honestly, why wouldn’t they? The private sector has soared, and that part of the world has suddenly become an attractive destination for people from all four directions. So, if moving to China is under contemplation, it is only natural to want to know what the pay structure is going to be there.

One thing that should be clarified at the very start is that irrespective of where you are headed, there is no one “China salary” pay-level. Different occupations have different demands in different parts of the world, which in turn result in different pay levels. And then again, there are a thousand more factors that come into play and determine how much you take home. So, don’t expect a straight number that matches the whole of China or even one city or industry, but research specifics to get an idea of what you might be getting yourself into.

Expats in China actually enjoy a higher salary than locals employed there. Although the salary packages have not really improved over the recent years, it is safe to say that they are still attractive and OK compared to living costs. This gives you a general idea that if you are concerned about being paid peanut rates because well the Yuan is weak, you need not worry a second more. Or why else would such an enormous amount of people are headed to that part of Asia?

Anyhow, let’s look at the factors that ultimately determine your pay. First things first, do you know how to speak Mandarin Chinese? While inability to speak in their native language is not a deal breaker, if you do have a hang of the language, you are in for a delight. That’s right – the Chinese love their language and any expat who can speak it. Plus, you will be easier to work with from the locals’ perspective and so, it is only logical.

Another thing is how experienced you are. A survey conducted in 2011 indicated that expats with experience of 15+ years enjoy about US$240k equivalent per annum, working in the banking and financial sector. The pay in the legal sector is also extremely attractive, with expats with experience of 6+ years working for international law firms earning around $200k per annum. The biggest surprise of the survey was the pay of top-level executives in Sales and Marketing, with the number touching $400k for top-level expats with 20+ years’ experience. Now that’s Wall St. level. Clearly there is a lot of demand and not enough supply of experienced talent.

If you are not that experienced in your field, a number of about 70k in occupations like property & construction, human resources, and finance can be safely expected. Mid-level IT experts can expect an impressive $100k. Now add to these numbers the fact that health insurance is included in most salary packages, which can save up to $200 per month. Impressive, right?

Now these are just numbers. They don’t incorporate how well you are able to negotiate your salary or who you work with. The language issue, the working conditions and hours, and other similar factors are also at work when it comes to determining your salary.

China is a big country, and your specific destination may also play a vital role, according to a recent survey – China Salary Insight. The main cities offer much, much better payment prospects. The survey indicates that Shanghai leads the rankings, offering highest average pay in all of China. Shanghai is followed by Shenzhen, Beijing, and Guangzhou.

While China may not be THE most attractive location in terms of pay, it is certainly a haven for ambitious individuals. If you believe you can work in such competitive environment and bring a skill-set that is out of the ordinary, the pay should be the least of your concerns. You will be well compensated.

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