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For teachers, knowledge is money
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-28 00:13

For university professors knowledge is not only power, more and more, it is also money.

According to statistics provided by the Local Taxation Bureau of Beijing's Haidian District, teachers at 53 colleges and universities in the district paid 196 million yuan (US$24 million) in individual income tax by mid-December.

Mao Minhui, an official with the bureau, told China Daily that the personal income tax of university teachers in the district has increased by more than 50 per cent per year in recent years.

The combined personal income tax of lecturers and professors in the district added up to 54 million yuan (US$6.5 million) in 2001. That was less than one-third the current figure.

Mao said university teachers's incomes are among the fastest growing in the country.

Haidian District, located in northwestern Beijing, is know as a university neighbourhood. More than 50 higher education institutions, such as the prestigious Peking and Tsinghua universities, are located there.

The rapid increase of the personal income tax of lecturers and professors in Haidian, though a small sign, points to a bigger trend.

Teachers, whose payment lingered at the bottom of a dozen of major professions in the early 1980s, now enjoy salaries and bonuses higher than many white collar employees at the top at the wage scale.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that during the past two decades, the annual salary for college lecturers and professors has multiplied 18 times.

In 2003, the average annual salary of university teachers hit 23,300 yuan (US$2,820), up 2,261 yuan (US$273) from 2002 and 22,100 yuan (US$2,670) from 1985.

"In the early 1980s, there was a popular saying in China that a professor working on atomic bombs research earned less than peddlers selling eggs," said Zhang Li, a lecturer with Peking University.

"But now, that situation is gone forever," said Zhang. People who use their heads make as much or more than people who use their hands.

Zhang, who has worked at the university's Chemistry Department for seven years, said she earned very little when she just started but in 1999, the university reformed its salary system and allowances for teachers shot up to 50,000 yuan (US$6,045) a year.

However, Zhang said the disparity of wealth among different fields of study is growing.

"Some professors at the business management school may get 5,000 yuan (US$605) a day for a lecture. The amount of money is close to the monthly salary of some teachers engaged in basic science," said Zhang.

Guo Li, a long-time middle school teacher, said her students are more than willing to apply for the enrollment into normal universities.

"Teaching is becoming an increasingly attractive profession as teachers' social status improves and salaries grow," said Guo.

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