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Work: salary, benefits and bonus

Let's start with stating the obvious: it's very hard to provide specific figures for salaries etc. Look at my article about the costs of living in Shenzhen and then you can make up your mind how much you should be earning to have a comfortable life. My advice would be anything over 10K RMB/month up to several times this depending on position and experience. When you are negotiating your salary, benefits and bonus for your new job in Shenzhen, I believe you should consider these items (housing, insurance, holidays, visa, special government policie, transport costs etc):

  • Housing. If the company arranges a fully serviced appartment in a good community, that would be a huge benefit. Although living costs are not so high in China, they are the biggest part of your salary. Some companies have several appartments available, make sure that the appartment you are being offered is up to your expectations. Some houses are really beautiful in China, but there are also lots of very bad ones. Get specific about location, size, furniture etc etc.I would say a 100m2 appartment fully serviced in a good community in either Nanshan, Futian or Luohu with free swimming pool and other facilities would be a huge benefit.
  • Insurance. Try to get your insurance fully covered, because this can be quite expensive. They probably have a limit on how much you can spend. Insurance is much cheaper in China compared to other countries, but it is still quite a large chunck of your salary
  • Holidays: Companies can have special benefit programs for foreigners, which include things like extra holidays. Useful if you want to travel in China :)
  • Visa costs etc. Visa for one year can cost 800RMB, I think this should just be arranged and paid for by the employer. Also make sure you get a real working visa, not some business visa (illegal)
  • Government has a policy that allows you to pay less tax over certain items, depending on your salary. It works like this: you collect invoices for eating and a few other selected expenses. Then you hand in those invoices (up to a certain limit, depending on your salary) once per month to your employer and they do the paperwork. In your salary you have to pay less tax (for example I hand in 2000Y/month invoices for eating. I will get back 400Y tax in my salary). It also includes items such as 'one-time-moving fees' or 'children tuition'. Read more about IIT and tax benefits here
  • Food allowance, especially for lunch this should be possible. Sister of my girlfriend gets 30RMB/day in coupons. Not a major cost saver, but still nice to have. I personally don't have this. If you manage to get 50RMB/day, then you can eat quite good everyday :)
  • Laptop or computer, phone etc. Although common to get this in Netherlands, I believe most people don't get it here in China. Getting like 200 RMB/month to cover phone expenses is more common and if you are expected to make many phonecalls using your private phone, I think this is reasonable. If you want to receive foreign TV stations you need to pay extra. I don't have this either.
  • Transport: it would be nice if the company will pay for taxi everyday, just because public buses can be overcrowded in the morning. It depends how far you have to travel, but you probably spend about 40-100RMB per day on taxi. If you take the bus or subway (recommended)you spend less than 10RMB/day for sure.
  • Bonus: just do whatever percentage is common in your industry.
  • Stock/options: try to get these as well if your company is listed. Normally they have a vesting period, so it's also a method for the company to make sure you will stay in China and not run away after a few months.
  • Gym/sports: I don't know if companies in China offer this, but you could always try. The summers are very hot and running or cycling are not very nice in this weather. Perhaps your community has a swimming pool or tennis court? Otherwise you probably need to pay 20-30RMB/time you go swimming. Having free access to this would be great.


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Roberto Marcos  - Medicare   | |2009-10-20 04:09:18
Whats the cost of the medicare in shenzhen
Thijs  - medicare   | |2009-10-28 22:15:31
I think medicare is some American health insurance scheme? I don't think it's relevant to China? Anyway, I don't know anything about it.
Jaysan  - Work permit   | |2009-11-27 02:26:24
My wife's US company has an office in Shenzhen that she is looking to transfer to. What does her employer have to do to apply for the proper work permit?
Thijs   | |2009-12-07 20:01:39
unfortunately I don't know the detailed procedures. Those are always quite complex and often change. I needed to get:
1. health check / certificate
2. foreign expert's certificate
3. working visa
(in that order)
aaron  - reimbursables   | |2010-02-16 21:29:40
First of all, thanks for all of this great information!

You mentioned that it is possible to get some kind of tax break or reimbursement for "one-time moving fees".

I will be moving (back) to Shenzhen soon and could not get my employer (a Chinese company) to pay for the move. So, I will pay it myself. So, are you saying that I can take a tax deduction for that expense or get reimbursed directly for some of it? How does that work?
Thijs     | |2010-02-17 15:16:39
Hi aaron, as far as I know it works like this: the government has a tax-benefit program for foreigners in China. You can only benefit from this program via your employer (eg you employer needs to arrange it). The "IIT Tax relief program" allows you to declare certain costs (such as food, steam drying clothes, one time moving fees, childrens tuition etc). Because you already paid tax over those items, they allow you to pay less tax over your income. So for example when you hand in 1000RMB worth of invoices for eating in a month to your HR department, you can pay 1/5th of 1000 ( 200RMB ) less in personal income tax (your HR department deducts that 200 from the amount of tax you pay). I guess that one time moving fees work the same: you would hand in the airplane tickets and perhaps shipping invoices etc (up to a limit based on your salary). Your company can then deduct that from your personal income tax. Because you get the money "back" via personal income tax, and because your employer already deducts the tax for you, you need their help with it. I suppose your employer needs to apply once to the government to take part in this plan, but I'm not sure about this.
Einstein  - Salary and cost of living in Nanshan   | |2011-03-26 04:10:49
I'm getting a job offer to work as postdoc fellow at some research institute in Nanshan, Shenzhen. The monthly salary is 12.5K RMB beside annual bonus. There is no accommodation. I'd like to know if this is fair to live in Nanshan or not. Also I'd like to know about the living expenses and housing. I'm single and I prefer american and western food.
Beverley  - Salaries for Heads of Language Schools   | |2011-10-25 04:18:04
Do you know what the salary range is for people who are Head of a Language School.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 19 February 2010 )
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