HOUSING costs for expatriate staff living and working in China are only slightly lower than annual salaries in many cases, a survey of expats' pay shows. The Price Waterhouse survey of expatriate remuneration in China shows that to house a worker costs up to the equivalent of 93 per cent of that person's annual wage. There is a further 30 per cent in hardship costs. The average annual housing bill is $497,784, or $41,480 a month. Beijing is the most expensive at $548,012 and Guangzhou the cheapest at $394,399. 'As with Hong Kong, housing remains a significant cost for employers,' the report says. 'All companies responding to the survey provided some form of accommodation, and the majority provide apartments.' The survey details pay and total packages that put the annual figure at $1.81 million for a manager, $1.26 million for a financial controller, and $1.64 million for a marketing manager. A recent survey by outplacement group Q3 Associates estimates that for expatriates in Hong Kong, the average annual package is worth about $2.5 million. The other single biggest outlay for companies after salary and housing is hardship allowances, which on average are the equivalent to about 30 per cent of annual pay. The Price Waterhouse report says Shanghai hardship pay is the most lucrative - an employee is paid an additional $16,250 a month or 33 per cent of their base salary, compared to Beijing ($15,250 a month, 30.2 per cent) and Guangzhou ($13,000, 30 per cent). The firm contacted 77 companies operating in China and collected figures from 226 expatriates working in five different jobs. 'China is still being treated as a hardship posting, although many companies dispute the state of living conditions,' the report says. Most expats said they lived in suitable accommodation and ate Western-style food. Other 'perks' in China included rest and recreation leave, education and club membership. Most expats tried to get out of China at least once every three or four months, although the survey shows that employees in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are allowed only two trips a year. The most common destination for expats on leave was Hong Kong. Almost three out of four companies provided educational allowances for their staffs' children. The average cost of schooling for primary-age children was $72,000 a year. For secondary education, this rose to $89,000. It was less common for companies to provide boarding school fee assistance. There is little differentiation between Asian and Western expat standards, it says. 'It is a common misnomer that expatriates from Hong Kong are more expensive than their Western counterparts because of the high salary levels in Hong Kong,' it says. 'However, these salary levels seem to be equated by the higher benefit levels demanded by Western expatriates, who expect higher standards of accommodation, children's education and the buying power to buy Western-type goods.'