Decreasing expat salaries

It’s been clear for a couple of years now that expat salaries are decreasing.

Around 2005/2007, the average for a ‘normal’ or not high-skilled job was something like 18,000 RMB, even up to 25,000 RMB.

From 2011 to now, the same jobs seem to be offering 9,000 RMB to 15,000 RMB.

I’m not talking about ‘real’ jobs like engineers, finance people etc., but rather the more ‘unskilled’ expats, including all kinds of sales, marketing, and especially ‘business development’ and such. (this includes ‘writers’!)

The influx of the desperate

The reason for this is that there will always be some expat or other, a ‘foreigner living in China’, who is willing to take a low salary.

The numbers of Westerners coming to China increases every year, particularly now with the economic problems in Europe and the US.

This is why there are individuals within that group who are pretty much desperate to stay in China, and who will therefore work for little.

Something like 10,000 RMB is really pitifully low for the kind of ‘life’ or lifestyle that an expat wants here.

I’m not talking about everyone – there are still many normal people here who want to live a normal life – within their financial means – and who are – and this is key – not swept up by the delusions of grandeur that some expats allow themselves in Shanghai.

Desperately trying to keep up

But there are plenty of expats who see those who do have plenty of cash.

They can afford to (foolishly) blow tens or hundreds of thousands  of RMB on food and drink, and to roll around the city in ill-gotten Bentleys and such.

A big example of this is expat magazines endlessly featuring things which are simply way, way above most expats budget-range.

A list of ‘what to do’ on any occasion (Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother/Father’s Day etc.) will only show places which are charging over 600 or 800 RMB, minimum, for a meal.

Take that currency into whatever your home currency is, and then ask yourself what kind of salary that person would be getting in order to think that such a cost is genuinely wise and worthwhile.

However the expat bubble means that there are those who, as mentioned, get completely caught up in the swirl of what they see around them, and, just because they are ‘foreign’, believe that they should be laying out such extravagant sums of money.

Incompatible, to what end?

This is therefore incompatible and a contradiction. It doesn’t seme sustainable for the salaries to decrease, yet the desire for a ‘rich’ lifestyle to increase.

Yet, importantly, no businesses – at all – rely on an expat dollar.

Any restaurant or any place at all has an enormous customer base of over-wealthy city-dwellers who are flushed with easily-accrued wealth and need something – anything – to spend their money on. The society here simply – only – tells people to accrue wealth, and then flaunt that wealth as much as possible.

There is literally zero ‘guidance’ or social culture as to ‘what to do when you have enough’. There is no ‘enough’. You can go to any of the posh shopping malls and see people who already own cars, millions-worth of clothes – and all they are doing is shopping for more things.

So the point is that any change in expat living costs, lifestyle or financial means will be totally irrelevant to ‘the city’ in any sense.

Yet, will the expat society have any change within?

It certainly seems not. and this small article is – in no way – trying to answer any questions or find any conclusions.

It’s merely the posing of a question.

What will be the evolution of this change – that more and more foreigners will come to China and be willing to simply ‘work for less’?


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Categories: Work


Foreigner in Shanghai


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