Expat Salaries in China

Although there are a variety of draws for foreign workers to China, the economy is the most prominent. People migrate to China for a variety of reasons, including a lack of employment opportunities at home, the promise of higher salaries as an expat, or the belief that they may advance their careers more rapidly in China than in their home countries. However, not all foreign workers in China get the same pay.

Foreigners in China have a wide range of incomes.

The Chinese government estimates that there are 846,000 non-locals now residing in Greater China, based on data from the year 2020 census. A rise in the number of foreign residents is likely if China's economy continues to prosper (and the government finally abandons its Zero Covid policy).

Those looking to leave their home countries and go to China may find people from all walks of life. At the private English school where I taught in Shanghai, I shared my classroom with a retired American rancher who wanted to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Asia and a twentysomething Australian who was putting away money for a house. Later in my career, I switched to working in the internet industry, where I met people like a Chinese culture-obsessed SEO expert who worked as little as possible to spend time with his new bride and an online ad manager who had been headhunted in the United States and eagerly returned there after only six months. Expatriate wages in China may be expected to fluctuate widely, given the large quantity and diversity of foreign workers in the country.

The education industry is particularly plagued by salary inequality. It is possible for highly skilled foreign instructors working at elite private schools to earn up to 50,000 RMB per month, while less qualified teachers in the same roles may be lucky to make 15,000 RMB per month. It is my educated guess that the average annual salary for a Chinese teacher is somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 RMB, with the actual amount depending as much on geography and years of experience as on academic qualifications. Even yet, there is often much wiggle area for bargaining when signing a contract, and there is typically more money to be gained for overtime.

Many people working abroad in other fields make far more money. Full-time workers in large companies in the auto, hi-tech, chemical, engineering, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing sectors, for example, can earn up to 100,000 RMB per month, not including attractive benefit packages that can include a housing allowance, private education for their children, a vehicle and driver, and private medical insurance. These occupations are considered to be the pinnacle of opportunities for foreign nationals seeking employment in China.

China's huge gap between the salaries of expats and Chinese nationals

While not all expats are paid the same, the disparity between expat incomes and Chinese salaries is far less. Foreign educators, for instance, may expect to earn three times as much as their domestic counterparts.

Most Chinese people will automatically infer that foreign employees are being compensated at a higher rate than locals. Such differences might aggravate coworkers, particularly if it's evident that you're putting in less time than your local peers.

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