Wages and benefits in China

Minimum wages across China

Determining the minimum wage in China is complicated. First, wages are set for individual cities, provinces and other administrative units by their respective local governments rather than on a nationwide basis. Next, each of these principalities is divided into a number of wage classes, whose minimum wages vary according to local socio-economic conditions. Lastly, the minimum wage is differentiated between the minimum monthly salary and the minimum hourly wage (for full-time and part-time workers, respectively). According to China’s Employment Promotion Plan, the minimum wage in each jurisdiction must be increased at least once every two years.

Average salaries

Average wages are much higher compared to government stipulated minimum wages and continue to increase every year. Cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou have the highest average annual salaries in China. The 2016 and 2017 average wages are shown below:

Average salaries by region (Urban units)
Region2016 average annual salaries12017 average annual salaries2
Inner Mongolia61,0678,82566,6799,636

Assumed exchange rate: 1 USD = 6.92 CNY

Average salaries in major sectors (urban units)1
Sector2016 average annual salaries by sectors2017 average annual salaries by sectors
Average (2016)67,5699,76474,31810,740
Agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fishery33,6124,85736,5045,275
Production and supply of electricity, gas, heat and water83,86312,11990,34813,056
Wholesale and retail trade65,0619,40271,20110,289
Transport, storage and post73,65010,64380,22511,593
Hotels and catering services43,3826,26945,7516,611
Information transmission, software and IT122,47817,699133,15019,241
Financial intermediation117,41816,968122,85117,753
Real estate65,4979,46569,27710,011
Leasing and business services76,78211,09681,39311,762
Scientific research and technical services96,63813,965107,81515,580
Management of water conservancy, environment and public facilities47,7506,90052,2297,548
Services to households repair and other services47,5776,87550,5527,305
Health and social service80,02611,56489,64812,955
Culture, sports and entertainment79,87511,54387,80312,688
Public management, social security, and social organization70,95910,25480,37211,614

Assumed exchange rate: 1 USD = 6.92 CNY


In China, overtime is paid depending on the work hour system adopted by the employer:

Comprehensive and non-fixed work hour systems require special approval to implement. Under the standard work hours system, employees work eight hours or less a day and 40 hours or less a week. They have the right to at least one rest day per week.

The majority of white-collar jobs in China now operate according to this model. Rather than a unit of one week, the comprehensive work hour system adopts a set period (typically one month) as the base to calculate the employee’s working hours. Although the distribution of hours worked during this period can be irregular, the average number of working hours per day and per week should roughly correspond to the levels set out in the standard work hour system. Lastly, the non-fixed work hour system is geared toward positions that generally do not receive overtime payments such as:

Social insurance

Social insurance payments in China (also called “social welfare” or “mandatory benefits”) are mandatory contributions to government-run funds made by both the employer and the employee (whose contribution the employer is responsible for withholding each month). Social insurance obligations from the employee and employer, respectively, can vary considerably depending on the city in which the contributions are being made. For a company with employees based in many cities around the country, the overall cost to the company for an employee earning a monthly salary of RMB 10,000 in one city may be quite different for someone on the same salary based elsewhere.

In total, there are five social security funds:

  1. Pension
  2. Unemployment
  3. Medical
  4. Occupational injury
  5. Maternity

Added to these is a mandatory housing fund not strictly considered a type of social welfare, but generally included within the scope of social security. Housing fund contributions are mandatory and come from both the employer and the employee, apart from some special areas where the employee does not need to make a contribution. Money in the housing fund can be used by employees to pay the down payment on a house or to subsequently pay back a loan to the bank.

While employees are also mandated to make their own contributions to several types of social insurance, the portion contributed by the employer is normally higher. In fact, social security payments typically add an additional cost of between 30% and 45% of an employee’s salary each month.

Mandatory benefit types

Mandatory contribution rates are stipulated by local governments, and the exact calculations involved can be quite complicated. Percentages are not technically based on the employee’s monthly salary, but rather on a theoretical “base” salary stipulated differently from city to city. Foreign invested enterprises should follow the local rates when calculating payroll and paying mandatory contributions for the social security of their employees.

Employer ratesEmployee rates
1 The contribution amount in each category is calculated by using the employee’s payment base figure and multiplying it by different percentages required by each local government entity.
PensionAround 10% to 22%Around 8%An individual can receive a pension based on the amount accumulated in his/her individual fund after retirement.
MedicalAround 5% to 12%Around 2%In the event of illness/non-occupational injury, an employee can have part of the treatment cost covered by medical insurance.
UnemploymentAround 2%Around 1%In the event of redundancy, the employee may claim unemployment benefits for a maximum of 24 months.
MaternityAround 0.5% to 1%-During maternity leaves, the employer receives reimbursement from this insurance fund.
Work-related injuryAround 0.5% to 2%-The work-related injury fund covers the cost of treatment should an occupational injury or illness occur.
Housing fundAround 5% to 12%Around 5% to 12%Designed to ensure that workers save to purchase housing.

In late 2011, the Chinese government announced that foreigners are to be included in the social insurance system at the same rates as Chinese citizens (excluding the housing fund); however, to date, implementation has varied by region.

Given the complicated requirements for social insurance contributions, many companies choose to outsource their payroll processing and related HR administration services. This has the added benefits of ensuring continuity (which can falter if an HR manager is absent or suddenly resigns), transparency and the confidentiality of salary information.

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