“The difference in salaries is out of proportion”

One day in May 2013, I’m at a Lanzhou noodle restaurant near my apartment. While I’m waiting for the food, I send my then-fiancé now-husband a voice message. When the guy sitting across the table from me hears that I can speak Chinese, he starts chatting with me. After talking about where I’m from and similar topics, he points at a huge picture on the wall showing the grasslands in Gansu, saying: “I’ve been to that place.”

I: “It looks beautiful and reminds me of the grasslands in Sichuan and Yunnan.”
He: “The area where I’m from looks like that too. I’m from Sichuan.”
I: “How long have you been living in Shenzhen?”
He: “I’ve been living here for ten years. I have been studying in Shanghai before coming here.”
I: “What’s your major?”
He: “Software, IT. That’s also my work here in Shenzhen. Do people in Austria know Shenzhen?”
I: “Some do, some don’t. If they don’t know it, I’ll tell them that it’s right across the border from Hongkong. Everyone knows Hongkong.”
He: “You’re right. Hongkong is really close. My company’s headquarter is located in Luohu district of Shenzhen, right next to the border. The company also has a branch in Hongkong. Our company’s Hongkong employees who do exactly the same job as the Shenzhen employees earn a lot more than the latter. An employee in Shenzhen earns around 5000 RMB a month while one located in Hongkong will earn 40000 RMB monthly.”
I: “Wow, that’s a lot more.”
He: “It is. Living is expensive in Hongkong and food is more expensive too. For a simple noodle dish like this one (pointing at the food he’s eating) you’ll pay 8 Yuan here, while in Hongkong you’ll probably pay around 30 Yuan. Hongkong is more expensive, but I think the difference in salaries is out of proportion, it’s a bit unfair.”

We talk for a little longer before I have to get going to meet up with my fiancé and to leave Shenzhen for our wedding in Austria.

Have you ever had a similar conversation? I’d love to read your comments.

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6 thoughts on ““The difference in salaries is out of proportion”

  1. it’s kinda funny, because on the other hand a lot of Mainland mothers come to give a birth in HK, yet they live next to the boarder and send their child to school in HK every single day because they cannot afford living in HK itself. its expensive comparing to Mainland China and still attracts so many MC. some salaries in HK are ridiculous, my husband’s friend who graduated from same university as my husband’s first degree came back to HK and the best job offer he got was with 8000 HKD – to compare, my mother in law rents out HK flat for 9000 HKD and it’s in NT, around 1h with bus from HK Island itself, lunch in cafe de coral or mc donalnds – 28-35 HKD, once you pay rent you”re in a debt already. then we went to shanghai where prices of flats are high too but prices of food or transport is so cheap – 2 RMB for bus, 1 if you make a change, more than 5 changes in 2h – they don”t charge you. in HK no matter how long you ride you pay from stop you enter to the very last one – even if you ride just one. the bus I took from NT to island cost around 15 HKD, if I just want to take one or two stops I would probably still paid around 12. it”s just rediculous

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    • Whenever I go to Hongkong I have the feeling that transportation there is expensive (especially on the metro). In Shenzhen you pay extra for every time you change buses or metro, if you have to change a lot it’s not cheap either, but still cheaper than Hongkong.

      Thanks for making these comparisons, the guy was talking about how things are in his company and this is not to say how things are in general.

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  2. Did not know this before, now I understand why HK is losing its competitive edge. If I had a business in HK, the logic thing to do would be moving everything to Shenzhen and keeping a minimum staff in HK.

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  3. Offshore to the mainland, eh? Production goes to where labor costs are lower, even in some ridiculous circumstances. An actor/director friend of mine has a “personal assistant” in India whom he pays $9.00 USD to do research and editing. It’s all to be expected, I suppose.

    Are labor and environmental laws the same throughout China? If not, is there a ground floor below which no area can go below?

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    • Local governments in China can often adjust laws in such a way that they suit a certain area, I’m not sure about labor and environtmental laws in particular though (it probably also depends on the kind of law – some are nationwide I would assume, while others are only enforced locally). Not an expert in this area though, so maybe it would be better to ask someone who is.

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