Chinese Civil Servants Demand Higher Salaries, Reactions

Political cartoon showing everyone fighting for the "iron rice bowl" of being a Chinese civil servant.

Political cartoon showing everyone fighting for the "iron rice bowl" of being a Chinese civil servant.

Most-discussed article of the day…

From NetEase and Sohu:

People’s Congress Representative Appeals for Higher Salaries for Civil Servants, Claims Private Sector Pays 500-600k

Summary: During the Guangdong Two Meetings, multiple People’s Congress representatives called for increasing the salaries of public servants. One People’s Congress representative said that the wages for Shenzhen government workers hasn’t changed in the past six to seven years, whereas the incomes of employees for private companies has extremely increased, that if he were to work in the same position in a private enterprise, his wages would be four to five times higher. However, because of the better institutionalized benefits after retirement [for government employees], he is unable to “take the plunge” [to switch over to the private sector].


On one side, the competition for the “iron rice bowl” [guaranteed job and retirement pension] of a civil servant is increasingly fierce; on the other side, the civil servants are constantly complaining that their incomes are low and benefits are poor, with the demand for increasing salaries getting louder. Just how do we explain this paradox?

Low wages, high pressure?

While discussing the work report of this year’s Guangdong province high court, Guangdong Provicial People’s Congress representative and Shenzhen Business Association Executive Vice-President Lin Hui expressed that because his own office is right next to the court, he is relatively familiar with the degree of hardship of the court’s employees. “I get off work relatively late, and sometimes the lights in the courthouse are still on even at 8 or 9pm, which shows how hard their work is.”

“It really isn’t easy for the people in the courthouse, and their wages really aren’t high,” Lin Hui says. Abroad, the wages for judges are comparatively high, so they very actively undertake their duty to society. The wages are basically around 10,000 for judges of mid-level administrative rank.”

Female representative Zhang Lijie of lawyer circles agreed and expressed: “Shenzhen’s ranks of judges have a various serious problem of talent drain. I know a basic-level judge, a deputy justice of the court, who says many female judges have no time to take care of their children when they go home because they are too tired.”

Zhang Lijie says that the number of judges resigning from the Shenzhen Intermediate Court has in recent years been increasing, so many people are resigning and coming out to become lawyers, with the money they are earning being many times that of being a judge.

Guangdong Provincial People’s Congress representative and Shenzhen Municipal Government Investment Project Evaluation Center Senior Engineer Liu Lin said frankly that they should increase wages for civil servants as soon as possible. Liu Lin expressed during an interview with this reporter that it isn’t just court staff, all Shenzhen civil servants have it very difficult, their workload and work stress both being very high.


Representative dispels doubts about why salaries should be increased

With regards to the proposal to increase salaries for civil servants, Liu Lin responded one by one to the questions this reporter made during an interview with China Business News and other media.

Liu Lin told this paper that the wages for Shenzhen civil servants hasn’t changed in the past six to seven years and with inflation, the pressure in everyone’s life is extremely high.

An even larger reason comes from the comparisons being made with the outside world [private sector]. “Five years, ten years ago, the income of civil servants was considered middle-upper level, but now it is considered middle-lower, because others [private sector compensation] is increasing, prices are increasing, but we are not increasing.

A cartoon of a Chinese civil servant holding the "iron rice bowl" of a civil servant exclaiming that their pay really isn't high.
Man holding “iron rice bowl” of a Chinese civil servant: “Our pay really isn’t high!”

“The increase for private company employees these few years has been extremely large. It turns out that the average wages is probably 800,000-90,000 per year for a position, and with bonuses now, there’s even over 300,000. It is very normal for first-rate engineers in private enterprises to get 500,000-600,000.” Liu Lin says if he were to work in the same position in a private enterprise, his wages would be four to five times higher.

If so, why not just “take the plunge” and [go into the private sector]? In the face of this reporter’s follow-up question, Liu Lin says he is almost 50 years old now and that going to a private company now would mean not being able to enjoy the comparatively better institutionalized retirement benefits after all these years of low wages. “It’d be like not getting [my deserved compensation] in the front and also not getting it in the end [meaning he accepted lower wages for better retirement benefits, and changing jobs now would mean losing those future benefits, making his past sacrifices meaningless].”

This then is exactly the core of the problem. Because of the dual-track pension system, the retirement pay of civil servants and state-owned enterprise employees being much higher than those of private company personnel has continuously been a focal point of public opinion.


If the wages of civil servants are low, then why are there still so many people fiercely competing to become civil servants? With regards to this, Liu Lin replies that most of the people registering to test to become civil servants is because of the difficulty of finding employment among recent university graduates, that many private companies are unwilling to hire recent graduates without work experience but even recent graduates can test to become civil servants.

“Civil servants is in comparison relatively stable [secure] work. What more, the starting salaries of civil servants may be higher than the starting salaries at private companies, but [salaries] at private companies increase especially fast.”


Comments from NetEase:

骑马o过海 [网易广东省广州市网友]:

Resolutely oppose “using higher salaries to encourage honesty [discourage corruption]”! Using higher salaries to discourage corruption is open public corruption! It is blatant use of one’s position for personal gain! Countless facts have already proven that higher salaries do not foster honesty [discourage corruption], higher salaries will only help greed/corruption!

骑马o过海 [网易广东省广州市网友]:

Just what exactly have civil servants done? For what reason should civil servants get high salaries? Just because people have raised the prerequisites to become a civil servant causing the testing for civil servants to be harder? May I ask if contributions to society come from testing or from actual action? Moreover, are the wages for modern civil servants actually low? Their wages are higher than the average workers’ wages of private companies, and let’s not even mention how civil servants don’t need to deduct old-age insurance fees, so the wages they report is what they actually get [in pocket]. “Private sector employee incomes average over 300k a year.” Other than a few companies with monopolies, just how many private company employees have such high salaries? “Civil servant wages haven’t changed in the past six to seven years.” Why not say civil servants were getting six to seven years ago far in advance what they should be getting only today? If the compensation for civil servants were poor, the who would still be willing to compete with so many other people in order to become one? Is this something that can be concealed just by saying the job is difficult? Civil servants don’t “take the plunge” [switch to the private sector] only because they won’t be able to get the retirement benefits [of civil servants], but if you already knew this before, why even get started? Moreover, usually, a private company employee can pay [their deductions] all at once, so how come civil servants can’t? This is just an excuse!

网易广东省深圳市网友 [指那拆那]:

Then get lost [quit] because there are a large number of people who are fighting for the job. Oh yeah, let me ask a question, why is it that so many people are competing to become civil servants? Are they all stupid?

bzy8189 [网易山东省东营市网友]: (responding to above)

How do I survive after working for nearly 40 years and now get less than 2000 yuan after retirement, and you people think 10,000 is too little? I’ve never heard people [civil servants] saying anything on behalf of the people on the lowest levels of society, regardless of whether they are in the People’s Congress or the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, because they none of them are representatives of the people.

网易广西南宁市手机网友 [gmdpioneer]:

Are civil servants not also people? Every year the country’s GDP increases by 7.5% and more, yet the wages of civil servants who possess authority over the country’s public finances remain static and unchanging. In 2007 when I gave birth to my daughter, hiring a nanny was 700 yuan. Now it is 2500 yuan and my wages haven’t increased one cent. Am I not a member of the workforce? Those who are arguing noisily that they’ll switch places with me, are you even qualified to switch places with me? I have a Master’s Degree, only started working at 24 years old, but you probably started working at 18, right? Was my education less than yours? Does a market economy not involve inputs and outputs? We should compare groups of people of the same educational level, and see if it is better to be a civil servant or at a private company. The merging of pensions systems [referring to different pension systems for public and private employees] and the extending of the retirement age are extremely disadvantages for low-level civil servants, so much that I’m planning on having my daughter not consider becoming a civil servant in the future. Also, not all civil servants are corrupt, just like not all ordinary common people are good people. Is there no assumption of risk when engaging in corruption and taking bribes? Is it mainstream? Have you not seen that they [the central government] are arresting a provincial level government official a day now? If the ordinary common people aren’t afraid of going to jail, then they too can go steal and rob!

废除双轨制再谈中国梦 [网易广东省广州市网友]: (responding to above)

First, may I ask what are: civil servants who possess authority over the country’s public finances?
Second, who gave you that authority? If you believe not adopting “using high salaries to discourage corruption” will cause civil servants to engage in corruption, then citizens who cannot get fairness and justice can overthrow you as masters!
Third, there are plenty of university graduates in private companies. Can you do the things they do? I bet the majority of technical staff in private companies can do the things you do, right?
Fourth, let’s go outside of China and look for jobs. Tell me, do you think other people will prefer a civil servant like you or the technical staff of a private company?
Fifth, don’t use having been a graduate student to frighten people. I have several Master’s Degree graduates under me who still need this Bachelor’s Degree graduate to give them directions!

网易北京市网友 网易北京市网友 ip:58.83.*.*:

Stop putting on a show of being miserable. I will only mention the two benefits of civil servants: One, civil servants do not need to pay any medical/health or old-age insurance, and get N times more money after retirement compared to private sector workers. Two, the previous system of providing housing to government employees has simply changed its form but remains among civil servants, now called low-income housing. Just about all civil servants can buy low-income housing with some not just one, and some even resell them for a profit.

网易浙江省杭州市网友 [拾微填海]:

2013 Average Income for Chinese Urban Residents: 24,565 yuan/year, 2013 Average Income for Chinese Rural Residents: 7,917 yuan/year.
Courts: Basic wages around 10,000 yuan, and based on 10,000 yuan: 120,000 yuan/year.
Now let me make a joke: The wages of those working in the courts are too low. Hahaha

拾微填海 [网易浙江省杭州市网友]: (adding to his own comment)

Those who agree this is funny, click ding. Thank you.

阿文很帅 [网易山东省青岛市网友]:

I’m section-level, and only get over a little over 3000 after deductions, which is only enough to maintain a basic life. Seeing all those shit-talkers saying we can quit if we think the money is too little, let me tell you, this is a common demand of the basic-level civil servant. People can switch with them and [the demand] would be the same. Don’t think civil servants ought to have low incomes and ought to receive little. This is not objective. Of course, this has to exclude grey transactions [grey income, unofficial/illegitimate income], as well as those benefits that are obtained through improper methods, because, for basic-level civil servants, first, this is against the law and regulations, and second, is basically not present among the vast majority of them. The increasing of salaries is in response to the level of wages and income of civil servants being low, while rising prices is objectively true. It also isn’t like the planned economy times for civil servants, where people used vouchers to buy goods and not currency, or as if you have to pay 10 kuai to buy something while civil servants only have to pay 5 kuai to buy it. From another perspective, civil servants’ income is just their wages and benefits. Forget about wages, because when it comes to the same level of education and the same local conditions, it is no comparison to private companies. When it comes to benefits, it is just accumulated housing funds, medical, and retirement benefits, but this doesn’t solve all the issues. Just think, don’t we still have to pay money for our children’s education? Just how many square meters can we purchase with our accumulated housing funds? Healthcare too has already been merged into the national medical insurance system, which simply cannot take care of the problem of getting sick and hospital stays. So ultimately, the benefits civil servants get can only provide civil servants part of the most basic of guarantees, and this is determined by the nature of the civil servant’s work and the stability of the civil servant ranks. Therefore, salaries ought to be increased. It’s only about how the system and method for increasing salaries needs can be even more scientific, how it can be combined with the level of economic development of different areas, and how it can be combined with the evaluations and standards of the civil servant’s performance.

网易重庆市江北区网友 [平淡一点开心一点]: (responding to above)

You can resign, but increasing your salary is impossible, so go try your luck in society and you’ll know just how easy it is for you to earn you little more than 3000.

网易江苏省苏州市手机网友 ip:122.193.*.*:

Are wages for civil servants low? Based on what I know, a deputy director’s retirement income is 7,000 to 8,000 and includes hidden benefits during holidays. What major accomplishments that benefit the people have they done? Each and every one of them are standing on the heads of the ordinary common people, enjoying retirement pay that is several times higher than that of ordinary people. Shameless.

What do you think? Should civil servants have their salaries increased?


Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.


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