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Wages in China
Over the past couple years I have heard lots of comments about the wages in China. Many complain about the low wages and how they think they are worth more. 
First I have to say that under 5000 RMB is definitely slightly on the lower side for 25 hours a week. However, over 5000 RMB depending on which city you live in, is a decent wage. Why?

1. The schools usually provide the teachers with a free apartment.
2. If you include taxes that people have to pay in western countries especially high taxing countries like Canada then the wage is not so out of sync. 
3. The cost of living in China is very low. Teachers can enjoy a very high standard of living on 2000 RMB per month in most major cities. That includes going out for lunch and supper every day and enjoying beers a couple times a week plus joining in a few recreational activities a couple times a week like playing pool or going bowling. 
4. Traveling in China on trains and buses is about one third the cost of Western countries. So holidays can be relatively cheap.

In addition to this many schools except for the larger ones do not make tons of money as some people have suggested. Operating costs can be high because of rent and paying foreign teachers. 
Secondly, foreign teachers are not working extremely long hours. They are usually working 30 hours a week on a 25 week teaching contract. So they do have lots of free time. For teachers who want to make more money they sometimes can get some extra money through tutoring.
But probably the bigger reasons people should not complain too much about the wages are:
1. People who do not want to work for these wages should not go to China in the first place. All the wages are advertised so whose fault is it if you take the job.
2. China's salaries are based on the rational of other countries. The salaries are created based on other salaries in China. And teaching salaries for foreigners are 4 to 6 times higher than the average wage. Remember the schools collect their tutions in RMB not US dollars. In Canada a professional teacher with 10 years experience makes an average of about 60,000 Canadian dollars a year. In England the teachers make about 20 to 25% less. But teachers moving from Canada to England do not complain about the lower salary. They basically accept that market conditions are different for different countries and even cities within the same country.
3. The average person who goes over to China is not a professional teacher. In my first two years in China I worked in a school that employed over 35 foreign teachers at one time. Over the two years, I met over 100 teachers. As a manager I would say only 20 to 30 percent of these teachers I would consider good to very good. Approximately 35-40 percent of these teachers I would consider bad to very poor. This is not because of a lack of training but more so related to the teacher's personality and character. Many of them go over to Asian countries because they think they can make a quick buck in a job that they think is easy. However, they are not committed to quality and lack a work ethic. 
When the standard of teaching increases maybe the salaries will increase. 

In the end though I do think there should be some movement on salaries for the best teachers. For example if a school wants to retain their best teachers year after year there should be salary increases or other incentives. 

I think as the market develops the salaries will increase but at their pace. People who complain about different cultures so much maybe should not be moving to a different country to live. For one to really enjoy living and working in China one has to accept the differences although a little complaining is normal and acceptable. Complaining to the masses though is a no, no. However, complaining a little to your closest friends is acceptable. 

Wayne Fong
March 15, 2004
Edmonton, Canada