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Salary, Education, Overtime: The Life of China’s Workers Today

Editor's Note: It's the most scrutinizing time of the year! The time of the year when we quantify twelve months into data points, lists, percentages, graphs, and report cards. The year in review. Bah humbug. 2014 was pretty merry for the average working Zhou in China. According to survey results, salaries were up and work hours were down despite the economic slowdown and this summer's stock market panic. If we take these numbers as fact, the plan to transition from an economy spurred by manufacturing and exporting cheap goods to one supported by the spending of it's own middle class is aligning nicely with salary growth. However, the income gap is getting bigger. This translated article summarizes the results of a survey on the average income of workers in 2014. A recent survey on Chinese workers by Zhongshan University’s Social Science Research Center reveals that the national average income for workers in 2014 was 30,197 Yuan. The average annual wage in 2014 was 9.1 percent higher than in 2012.At the same time, the average amount of working hours for China’s labor force has decreased from 2012 to 2014. In 2012, an average work week was 50 hours per week, and in 2014 it was 45. In 2014, 60 percent of those who work overtime did so voluntarily. Workers for foreign joint ventures had the most overtime at 41.5 hours on average.China’s Laborers Today In 2014, China’s labor force had attended school for an average of 9.28 years. Not that many had participated in vocational or technical training and had professional technical qualifications. Most laborers and workers in China had prior work experience. Only 2 percent had no previous work experience, and 26.77 percent had worked in rural areas. 40.62 percent had experience as a migrant worker.China’s laborers are generally tech savvy: they use their mobile phones to read the news, send texts, and write emails. Half of Chinese laborers use online banking, and just over a quarter have no problem purchasing train tickets online.The national average wage for Chinese laborers in 2014 was 30,197 Yuan, but was different per region. In the three regions studied, yearly salaries were 33,624 Yuan, 26,960 Yuan, and 28,246 Yuan.The Rich and the Poor The gap between poor and rich in China is ever increasing. In 2014, the top 20 percent of Chinese households made 21 times as much as the bottom 20 percent. The richest families in China made an average salary of 153,546 Yuan, and the poorest households earned just 7,155 Yuan. The gap is largest in rural areas. In urban areas, the top earning households earn 12 times as much as the poorest, and in rural areas the wealthy earn up to 27 times more than the poor.Male workers generally have higher salaries than female workers, sometimes earning twice as much. The national median income for male workers in 2014 was 33,697 Yuan. The same year, average income was only 23,288 Yuan for female workers. Male workers in rural areas earn an average of 28,991 Yuan, while women in rural areas earn 19,567 Yuan. In urban areas, male workers earn an average of 40,152 Yuan while females earn 28,704 Yuan.How much more does a boss of an enterprise make than a peasant farmer? In the northeast, a boss of an enterprise can earn up to 105,253 Yuan, while the average income for peasant farmers is only 8,829 Yuan.“Voluntary Overtime” What is the relationship between level of education and income? Overall, the more a person is educated in China, the higher their average income is. The average income for those who have graduated college was 58,875 Yuan in 2014, and only 9,747 Yuan for those who never attended school. Those with degrees in business earned the most with only an undergraduate degree with average salaries of 68,285 Yuan.As stated before, the average working hours in China have decreased from 50 hours to 45 hours a week. Those who are self-employed work the longest hours, and those in HR and IT work shorter hours.The concept of overtime pay in China has become more popular in recent years. However, 60 percent of those who work overtime still do it “voluntarily.” The main reason Chinese workers still agree to work voluntary overtime is to “gain direct economic returns.” 20 percent of workers also said that a “sense of belonging,” and “loyalty,” contributed to their decision. A small percentage said that they worked voluntary overtime for “career development,” and “self-betterment.”Workers for foreign joint ventures have the most overtime (52.66 percent of employees said they work overtime), followed by state-owned enterprises (39.39 percent) and government agencies (37.52 percent).Zhongshan University’s “China Labor Dynamic Investigation (CLDS),” is a large-scale social research project. The sample for the report included workers from 29 provinces and cities as well as Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.