How Much Do Workers Make In China?

The Nameless Factory Worker

This is where many young village girls end up if they leave the family farm. China has thousands of factories that manufacture every product known to man (and some that are not known). These factories employ a mostly female workforce because women are easier to control.

The workers are paid an average of 1000RMB per month plus housing and food. Since these factories are huge and the only things near by are more factories, there’s really no where for the girls to spend their money. Most will send the funds back home to help their families.

The jobs are very repetitive and I’m sure extremely boring. However, it pays many times more than working on the farm back home. Add in the fact that the living costs are zero since the company provides food and housing and the girls find themselves in a situation many American workers can’t seem to reach – positive cash flow.

The Nameless City Worker

Jobs in the city pay more than jobs at the factories. However, the cost of living in the city is much higher as well. It’s not uncommon to find 4 or 5 people sharing a small apartment. Most unskilled jobs in Shanghai pay 1000 to 2000 RMB per month. Because of the low wages for unskilled workers, business create a lot of redundancy by employing a bunch of them. The restaurant industry is a prime example. They’ll have multiple greeters at the door and who knows how many more waiters inside. On our train ride to Suzhou, there was a greeter at every single train car.

While the unskilled city worker may have access to far more entertainment choices than one of the 250,000 workers at the iPod factory, they generally don’t make enough to really entertain themselves.

The English Speaking Worker

In a city like Shanghai, being able to speak English opens up a world of new possibilities for the Chinese worker. Speaking English also means more money – 3000 to 5000 RMB per month. For example, in order to work at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, all employees (except cleaning staff) must be able to speak English or another language. The Grand Hyatt pays a lot more than a local hotel. Then again, they charge a ton more too!

A worker can make more money if he has a collage education. However, even if the worker is unskilled, as long as he can speak English, he’s worth more than three times an unskilled worker.

The Western Educated Worker

At the high end of the working class is the western educated worker. An English speaking employee with a western education is highly prized in China. Wages start at 17,500 RMB per month and many times, the company will pay for all or part of the housing cost. In a country where the average factory wage is 1,000RMB per month, starting at 17,500 puts these workers in a very elite class.

It used to be that most western educated Chinese student would stay in the West after graduation because the opportunities are greater. However, this is no longer the case and most students now choose to return home after getting their degree. Look at it this way. A new grad will make the same wage working in the US or China. However, the wage of the new grad in the US isn’t 17.5 times greater than the average US factory worker. Chances are, the US factory worker makes more than the grad.

The great need for educated employees has allowed many US and Canadian citizens to seek work in China. You can expect your wages to be about the same as what you would make working at home. However, because the cost of living is so much lower, you can live pretty high on the hog. That is, as long as you stay away from Pudong. 😈

54 thoughts on “How Much Do Workers Make In China?”

  1. Damn that sucks, is there any way for them to move up or are they pretty much stuck living in poverty if they were born into it?

    1. Sonds like they all need to start blogs and be Dot Com Moguls like John.

      1. Michael Kwan says:

        Being stuck behind the great firewall of China makes that quest a little more challenging.

        1. They can always use proxies

      2. The world is “flat” they say. It shouldn’t be too hard, they do not have to live here or ever come here.

      3. MR. NICE GUY says:

        JOhn is indeed very lucky to have moved in other country and become a man of power in his chosen field. I guess John has a lot of motivations for the chinese work force. hehehe

  2. Thiago Prado says:

    there’s amazing the salary difference between the unskilled people and the graduated ones. Some years ago in Brazil we had the same problem however the new President is trying to change the idea of third world country and paying more money to unskilled workers.

  3. Joe says:

    I can’t imagine making what I make now and having that be an “elite” class of salary. It’s incredible!

    1. I think 17,500 RMB is only around $2,500 per month US. Wow, that’s a pretty low wage to be in the elite.

      1. Ed Lau says:

        Seems like it but consider that the cost of living in China is next to nothing. $2,500 a month can have you living like an emperor there.

        1. Stephen says:

          I’m sure that can get you a lot of your favourite “Beautiful Girls (or Boys)” directly to your Hotel Room. 😆

        2. Michael Kwan says:

          Even within Canada and the United States, there are huge disparities in the cost of living. The average single detached home in Vancouver is over $700,000. The same house placed in small town Texas could probably be had for less than a quarter of that.

      2. Paul B says:

        There are lots of places in the world where $2500 is a pretty good wedge, just a shame the UK isn’t one of them

        1. Not even close in the UK

  4. wisdom says:

    The population of china is over 3 billion, pretty crazy…. however only about 162 million or so have access to the internet… I didnt know that ppl are now going to work in China who are educated, thanks for the info John.

    1. I don’t think it’s quite that many people, more like 1.3 billion. Still a bunch though.

    2. Damn that sucks. Don’t they have free internet cafe’s and stuff?

    3. Howard says:

      Wow, that’s the most ignorant and retarded comment I’ve seen for quite a while. I don’t read Youtube, you understand.

      I presume you think China got so financially and politically powerful solely through mass producing teddies and ipods? Oh dear.

  5. Paul B says:

    I always thought that in a communist country the workforce and wages were fixed? How much unemployment is there in China?

    1. Michael Kwan says:

      I’d imagine that most people are employed in some way, but the wages are ridiculously low for most of them.

    2. Howard says:

      “I always thought that in a communist country the workforce and wages were fixed? How much unemployment is there in China?”

      So communist they’re buying out American companies…

    3. Actually China is not a communist country in the sense the Soviet Union was.
      China is a communist country but its economy is more or less a free market type – the government only gets involved when it has to.
      Being a country with a communist government and capitalism at the same time can actually be a good thing in terms of economic prosperity.
      It is a lot easier for a communist government to handle the tough and unpopular decisions than for a democratic government. For example during the building of the worlds largest dam China had to relocate more than 1 million people. Imagine that happening in the US – the debate whether or not you should do it would take more than 10 years

  6. Flimjo says:

    Fascinating stuff, John. Your blog for the past couple of weeks has become an educational resource on China. Thanks for all this information.

  7. Pete says:

    Seems as if this is following almost the same trend as Taiwan over the past 20-40 years, except Taiwan had a tougher time getting students that it sends overseas to study to return.

  8. Binary Ant says:

    It’s incredible the salary difference. If a local worker lives with 1000RMB then a person who earns 17,500RMB is almost rich!! isn’t it?

    1. They’re more than rich, they’re considered elite, like upper class rich. I wonder what the really rich people in China make, you know, the ones who copy all of Bill Gates software products.

  9. david cheong says:

    If there is difference between pro and unskill worker, they shouldn’t have their salary so big difference. Its like way more than 55% difference. Thats really unfair to them.

  10. craig says:

    Thanks for all the info John, its getting me even more excited about my trip to Shanghai this September: I cannot wait!

  11. Its good to be western educated as 17500 RMB is more than thrice than Average Chinese English speaking worker. But I think there may be many Chinese people who passed out from top Chinese universities who r getting the same wage as western educated. If not its getting very partial.

  12. That’s low indeed lol. Chinese are also known on the internet as cheap workers. They almost do it for free 🙂

  13. Hoto says:

    maybe in china women are easier to control, but these guys should not try this in germany. lol

  14. fascinating reading, I like these types of articles John!

  15. Mike Huang says:

    Hmmm…17,500RMB a month is really a lot if I were to live in China. Makes me think if my wife and I should move there 😛


  16. I am going to China tomorrow 🙂

    1. Good luck, let me know how it goes

  17. What about real estate prices? How much does a nice big home in a good neighbourhood cost in China?

  18. Zak Show says:

    yes maybe you consider 2500$/month not enough but the level of living is not too high. John you have to visit Egypt to see that the engineer salary is not more than 150$/month and the teacher get a damn 100$ per month but they survive.

  19. Jay says:

    Great analysis John. It’s really shows the sad state of affairs in the US if we can’t retain grads after school. Very educational post.

  20. Noobpreneur says:


    Visit Indonesia and it will open up a new horizon :p – Like what Zak Show mentioned about the salary in Egypt – that also a case in Indonesia.

    Positive cashflow – hey, hey, nobody dislike it 🙂

  21. john says:

    As far as I know, it’s getting more and more difficult for the western educated students to find a job paying 17,500 RMB a month back in China. Quite a few of them have to settle down between 5000 – 10,000 RMB a month, still better than factory workers though.

  22. Wade says:

    I would hate the internet and rules there though. You basically can’t do anything.. No porn??? What gives?

    Shudogg Dot Com – Make Money Online Blogging

  23. Sha says:

    Informative post. You talked about some things I didn’t know about. That’s a damn shame about the poverty though.

  24. Eric Go says:

    And I think it is important to note that for english speakers, I think ou can only get that good amount provided if you had passed some english certification exams such as esl, nclex, etc.

  25. DeboHobo says:

    Hmmm I am looking to become an Expat maybe China is the place for me and my money.

  26. Pradeep says:

    One thing i like most about chines people is that they are very efficient about their and i know few guys in my town who have offices in china they all ways talk about their employees the way they do their job and how efficient and dedicated they are about their job

  27. MR. NICE GUY says:

    Sounds there are now many opportunities for factory workers in China. However many chinese workers still made fortune in other countries. Chinese are also lucky businessmen – just like John 😈 😈 😈 😈

  28. AJ says:

    I’ve seen pictures and videos of China, and an western educated person living in China is like heaven on earth. The costs of living is low with a great job plus the scenery in China is beautiful.

  29. Bob says:

    China has a rich history & powerful future , no matter the people here are having low standard of living, but remember it’s fastest developing economy in the world!! ….

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