Guangzhou workers lead the mainland in the salary stakes.
Figures unveiled yesterday in the Beijing Youth Post show annual salaries in Guangzhou last year rose 15.7 per cent, to 22,772 yuan (about HK$21,342), followed by Shanghai's average of 21,781 yuan, up 17.5 per cent year on year.
In Beijing, the average annual salary was 19,155 yuan - 17.2 per cent better than in 2000. Northeastern China's Tianjin had an average income last year of 14,308 yuan, while people in the southwest city of Chongqing earned an average of 9,523 yuan, Beijing Youth Post reported, quoting sources from the Beijing Municipal Government's Bureau of Statistics.
Educated white collar workers were paid most. Workers in the finance, insurance and computer sectors earned between 37,000 and 41,000 yuan a year.
Nationwide, last year's annual per capita disposable income for urban households was an average 6,860 yuan - a rise of 8.5 per cent in real terms over 2000, AFP quoted the State Bureau of Statistics as saying.
The data show last year's per capita net household income for the mainland's 900 million rural residents was 2,366 yuan - up 4.2 per cent year on year.
Despite the growth, some economists point that out the differences between Hong Kong and mainland cities are still wide and it will take time to catch up.
Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies associate director at the Chinese University Professor Lau Siu-kai said: 'Even though Hong Kong has been suffering a short-term slowdown, mainly plagued by the bubble investments in the past few years, the mainland cities, such as Guangzhou and Shanghai, will take at least 10 to 20 years to develop to Hong Kong's level.'
Professor Lau pointed out that mainland pay rates grew faster than they did in Hong Kong because they began from a smaller base.