Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin today all announced an increase in the minimum wage for employees in those cities. Shanghai raised its monthly minimum wage rate to 1,820 yuan and the hourly rate to 17 yuan, making them the highest rates in China.
Shenzhen, which normally has the highest rates, had already increased its minimum wage on 1 February to 1,808 yuan per month and 16.50 yuan per hour.
The rates in Beijing and Tianjin are in the higher to mid-range in China, standing at 1,560 yuan per month and 1,680 per month respectively. At least seven regions have increased their minimum wage so far this year, starting with Chongqing which raised its rate to 1,250 yuan per month on 1 January 2014.
Overall, minimum wage rates in China have almost doubled over the last five years. In Shenzhen, for example, the minimum wage rate in in the outer factory districts was just 900 yuan per month in 2009, while the rate in the city centre was 1,000 yuan per month. However, as CLB’s introduction to wages in China shows, the minimum wage still lags far behind the average wage, while increases in the cost of living in many cities have eroded most of the gains made by increases in the minimum wage.
Moreover, as noted in CLB’s new report on the workers’ movement in China, even if basic wages do increase in-line with the minimum wage, employers will often claw back the difference by cutting benefits and bonuses and cheating workers out of overtime.
Currently, just about the only way workers can ensure a decent pay increase is by taking industrial action, as shown by the workers at a Samsung supplier factory in Dongguan over the weekend.