SHENZHEN: The government in this southern city has lowered the income benchmarks for the first time since 1999 to soften the impact of the financial crisis on local companies.
The municipal labor authority issues the income benchmarks annually to serve as a reference for 566 types of jobs in the city.
The highest-level and medium-level benchmarks stand at 23,700 yuan ($3,470) and 2,460 yuan per month, respectively, decreasing by 8.5 percent and 3.9 percent each from last year.
However, the low-level income benchmark gained a 7 percent year-on-year rise this year to 1,102 yuan per month, which labor officials said should be attributed to the government's measures to protect low-income laborers.
"Our payment adjustment policy is to control the high-income group, expand the medium-income group and protect the low-income group. It's a way to narrow down the income gaps," said Wu Liyong, director of the income division of Shenzhen Labor and Social Securities Department.
Workers are encouraged to use the benchmark when negotiating their wage with employers.
Last year, the official surveys showed that the lowest-level salaries on average were 25 times less than the highest salaries. This year, surveys showed that gap has narrowed to 21.5.
The authority also recorded the biggest income gap in the financial industry, including security houses, insurance companies and banks, where the highest-paid person could be earning 80 times what the lowest-paid person earns.
Several residents polled by China Daily yesterday in different industries expressed their concerns about salaries shrinking this year.
"Possible pay raise this year? Are you kidding? I would feel relief if no pay cut occurs," said Lin Zhen, an accountant working for a leading computer manufacturer.
Liu Yue, a manager at a State-owned bank, said some of her benefits have been greatly cut since early this year, including money for travel and major public holidays.
"Our salaries have been increased over the past few years given the relatively low level in the industry, but I still feel the total wage was reduced this year. I learned that the salary cut was even bigger in banks that have offered top payment in the industry," Liu told China Daily.
Piao Ye, a human resources manager at a beauty salon, said the income for the entry-level workers has not been increased as much as the government indicates.
"The company provides dormitories to them and they could get 1,000 to 1,500 yuan a month, which could just maintain a very simple life in the city with high consumption index," she said.
Officials at the labor authority said they are not making plans to further increase the minimum level this year.