Shanghai tops all other cities on the Chinese mainland in terms of income, according to a study conducted by human resource website Zhaopin.com.
Employees in Shanghai earned between 20,000 ($2,900) and 540,000 yuan a year, said the report, which also investigated earnings in Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing and some other cities between August 2007 and July this year.
Shenzhen, Beijing and Guangzhou follow Shanghai in the income ranking, but the difference is not as large. For example, annual incomes in Guangzhou, which ranks fourth, range from 18,000 yuan to 420,000 yuan, it said.
While having some of the highest earnings in the country, Beijing and Shanghai are also pricey places to live in. Both were ranked among the top 30 most expensive cities to live in the world, according to US-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
In second-tier cities such as Hangzhou and Nanjing, people earn much less than in the big four.
On average, company employees in urban areas witnessed a pay rise of 13.8 percent in the first half of this year, compared with 9.7 percent in 2007, according to the survey released on Thursday.
Employees at State-owned enterprises (SOEs) have seen the sharpest pay rise, by 14.5 percent, followed by private firms (13.9 percent), foreign enterprises (11.7 percent) and joint ventures (11.4 percent).
But people in SOEs and private firms earn "only half" the amount of those working for foreign firms and joint ventures. Salaries in foreign-funded companies and joint ventures are generally the highest in China, the survey noted.
As for different professions, people in the financial sector are the wealthiest, followed by those in real estate and high-tech, it said.
Zhao Lipeng, a senior salary consultant with Zhaopin.com, said that double-digit pay rises in the first half of this year were largely a result of the fast rising Consumer Price Index (CPI), a gauge of inflation.
"The government is trying to control the price of goods like pork on the one hand, while also asking employers to pay higher salaries," he said.
"It should help achieve a balance (so that people don't feel the pinch of inflation)."
Pay rises have exceeded the country's average annual growth rate of 12 percent, but can hardly offset the impact of rising inflation on many consumers.
"For me, a pay rise of 400 yuan is nothing compared with the rising price of consumer goods," said Zhao Feng, an employee of a private firm in Beijing.
"Now even a bowl of noodles can cost you 10 yuan, almost double the price last year," he said.
Last month, the National Bureau of Statistics said the average urban worker's annual salary was nearly 13,000 yuan, 18 percent higher than the same period last year.