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China: Standard of the white-collar

 (Note: The Chinese Academy of Social Science has denied the publishment of the list, which under hot discussion for quite a few days proved to be faked)

In Chinese concept, white-collar is related to a decent life and a desirable living style. How much have you got to earn to be a qualified white-collar worker in China? A recently published report by Chinese Academy of Social Science gives people an official standard.

Here is an excerption (in RMB/ month)

一档:香港 18500,澳门 8900; 二档:上海 5350,深圳 5280,温州 5020,北京5000; 三档:杭州 4980,广州4750,苏州 4300,厦门 4100,青岛 4000; 四档:南京 3780,福州 3380,无锡3200,天津3150,济南3120,大连 3000; 五档:郑州 2880,昆明 2800,武汉 2680,海口2600,长沙 2480, 三亚 2360,重庆 2250,沈阳 2100,乌鲁木齐 2100,西安 2080; 六档:成都 1900,哈尔滨 1700,呼和浩特 1700,贵州 1600,长春 1500, 兰州 1500,银川 1100,西宁1000; 七档:拉萨900。

Class 1: Hong Kong (18500), Macao (8900)
Class 2: Shanghai (5350), Shenzhen (5280), Wenzhou (温州), a southern city famous for retail goods(5020), Beijing (5000)
Class 3: Hangzhou (4980), Guangzhou (4750) Xiamen (4100)
Class 4: Nanjing (3780), Fuzhou(福州),a city by Taiwan Strait (3380)
Class 5: Kunming (2800), Wuhan (2680), Changsha (2480)
Class 6: Chengdu (1900), Harbin(哈尔滨),a northern city (1700), Guizhou (1600), Yinchuan (1100)
Class 7: Lhasa(拉萨), provincial capital of Tibet (900)

The coastal cities took the head of the list, while the mid-China cities mainly on the middle and several distant inner-land cities on the bottom. However, though a report by the national authoritative institution, the list was questioned by many netizens. Most of them grumbled that the report terribly underestimated the earning needed for one to survive like a real white-collar in China today. That is, a “white-collar” according to the standard can hardly live a decent life in such a society of surging prices.

A blogger in sina.com thought it unbelievable:

据说这是他们的研究成果,天啦!!!!!!!!!!!!这个研究也太可怕了,白领竟然难以解决温饱问题??????

This is a result of their research? Oh my God! Such a terrible research! A white-collar can’t even eke out his/her daily living?

人生若只如初见, though with her beautiful name, commented:

蓝领差不多

It fits for the blue-collar only.

Baby Ninie (宝贝妮妮) from Ji’nan sighed:

也不知道到底什么是白领,我是济南的,反正按你说的那个标准在我们这里也就是个中农吧,哈哈。我觉得我一个月一万块钱也不够花啊,而且还没供房子。现在什么 都涨价,这个标准是现在的吗?我看着不大像,要是一个月收入3000多,连车子都快养不起了呢,光说这油价吧,97#的都快六块钱一个了,这肉吧,都十五 块钱一斤了

I don’t know what the white-collar really is. Whatever! According to that criterion, someone with the earning is only a so-so farmer here. I think 10000/month is nevertheless not enough, even though I am not paying mortgage installment of housing. Everything is now going more expensive. With 3000 RMB (the standard of his city), I couldn’t maintain the automobile. And the pork price, solely, has hit 15 RMB/500g. What a life!

Moreover, another focus of the blogsphere is the deteriorating living condition and heavier pressure on the white-collar, the people working in urban offices. A widely circulated saying tells the life of the white-collar:

干得比驴都累,吃得比猪都差,起得比鸡都早,下班比小姐都晚,装得比孙子都好,
挣得比民工都少,看着比谁都好,其实勉强解决温饱。他们不过是一群听起来很爽,看起来很美,却干着辛苦活儿,拿着血汗钱,受着脸面与金钱双重熬煎的穷人

We work harder that an ass, eat worse that a pig, get up earlier that a rooster, ring out later than a street girl, adulate more than a kiss-ass, merely eking out basic living, though looking better than any other. We look cool, sound good, but live a life so poor, with money earned by sweat and toil, grinded by self-respect and salary.

辰雨如君 spoke for the blue-collar:

白领们都在叫着薪水不够,我们蓝领真该去要饭了。现在看快了,离要饭仅一步之遥。

As the white-collar are yelling for being hard up, we blue-collar had better go begging. It’s soon when I am going to be a beggar.

Finally, let me cite the introspection of blogger 大智若, who discussed why people tended to make white-collar as their identities and whether the category is necessary, to end the post:

阶级的政治属性越来越淡,逐渐归位于经济属性。在城市,已经进入了全民流浪的时代,他们在匿名的竞争中无法喘息,怀着家园寻找乡愁,他们共有一个类似的伤痛感,在无家可归的迷惘中失去了自己的身份,我是谁?我属于谁?我到那里去?

The political nature of class differences is fading away and gives the place to the economic nature. In the cities, a new era of all people wandering has come. We immerse ourselves in the reminiscence of old homes and have a pain in common, the pain that we lost our identities in perplexity. Who am I? Where do I belong to? Where am I going?

9 comments

  • Lately news:
    Academy of Social Science today denied that they have published such a list. So this report that attracted hot discussions might be faked. The Academy is going to investigate who fabricated this recent widespread list.
    I am still following its further development.

    http://www.chinanews.com.cn/sh/news/2007/11-07/1070298.shtml

  • Here is the official announcement
    http://www.cass.net.cn/file/20071107104196.html
    Sorry!

  • Ay

    The classification of “white-collar” or “blue-collar” doesn’t contribute to the society so much. It brings labeling, stereotypes or prejudice against the weak. I agree with an institute such as Academy of Social Science to count the number of office workers and laborers / farmers, but they don’t have to classify them in “white-color” or “blue-color.” It is just a superficial status.

    The working condition in the West and Asia is very different. The West is undoubtedly better. The Chinese office worker in the article has “deteriorating living condition and heavier pressure.” They work hard, eat bad and “get up earlier than a rooster.”

    In my opinion, these conditions started since they were kids. In Asia, we have homework both on weekdays and weekends. I personally don’t mind studying on weekends at all. I love to relax and have fun, but I work when I have things to do. Since Asians get used to work all the time, not so many employees complain or try to change the harsh working environment.

    On the other hand, Western kids are different. The other day, I met a ten-year-old American student in the library. He said he doesn’t have homework on Thursday. I was surprised. Many American elementary school students have homework only from Monday to Wednesday. They are trained to work (study) on weekdays and enjoy after school and weekends.

    I wouldn’t argue which work / study environment is good or bad. It is just different.

  • @ Ay:
    Thank you for your opinion!
    Why Asians are more used to working hard and laboring all the time is quite worth discussions. The great population might contribute to it as well. The competition is so severe that people have to work more.
    Recently in China, for example, the new regualtion on holidays is under debate. Many people think though the law may define how much time they deserve to have rest, they can’t really enjoy it because bosses would usually force sub-ordinates to work even on weekends. Anyone who grumbles is likely to be fired since it’s so easy to find someone else.
    But after all, to catch up we have to pay.

  • […] *Standard of the white-collar […]

  • Richard Andrews

    I think that as an expat living in Guangzhou, the supposed white collar wage per month as quoted above(4750RMB) is quite a bit lower than what it really is.
    I agree with Bob that its very easy for a company to fire and rehire a position because of the number of people here looking for employment.
    The elementary students do have homework all week, but they also have no friends and no life outside of their family.
    As for working all the time, the number of people here that quit a job because of the hours or because of the working conditions, will generally have a new job within a week of quiting of being fired. Life here in Guangzhou is for some difficult, but for most its not that bad. Compared to teh western world, most chinese would fall sick after a mornings work.

  • Bob,

    Excellent question. Why do many East Asian people feel compelled to slog away for such inhuman hours? You suggest that the large population might cause stiff competition, and people thereby work harder to get ahead.

    This is a point of view I heard extensively while living in Korea too. Small country + high (urban) population density = stiff competition is inevitable.

    However, Korea is comparable in terms of size and population with the UK, and things don’t seem half as cut-throat here. I realise China is hugely more populous and developing fast, but the fact this mindset is prevalent in neighbouring Korea too suggests it may be useful to explore the logic behind your statement.

    I look forward to your analysis in perhaps a future article.

  • Weiwei

    In my opinion, from 2000 the government decided to enlarge the enrollment of the higher eduction which deemed to delay the entrance of the large amount of the graduates to society. the employment environment thereby is competitive. hence, most people esp. the young employees have to work hard to avoid replacement. they complained about the long-time work on one hand but on the other hand they have to continue their situation.
    i have the confidence that in some years when china becomes more stronger the situation will change.

    come back to the topic. i suggest it depends on the living expenses of different people that decides the income is enough or not. in addition, the locals do not need to pay the rent compared to most of those coming from other cities. therefore the list might need to be more specific.

  • zozzen

    It’s a fake news. Please change the topic and add a note.

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