China’s new graduates earn US$588 a month ... less than the cost of an iPhone

Those entering internet-related hi-tech industries fare the best, a survey found, but some say their actual earnings are much lower

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2017, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 June, 2017, 10:12pm

China’s newest college graduates earn 4,000 yuan (US$588) a month on average – not enough to buy the cheapest iPhone 7 model, a recent survey showed.

Those who work in industries related to internet applications and development earn the most, taking home more than 5,600 yuan a month, which would be just enough to cover the cost of the iPhone, according to Beijing-based research firm MyCos’ annual report on graduate employment.

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The survey polled nearly 290,0000 people who graduated from universities and colleges across the country last year. MyCos, which specialises in higher education management data analytics, has conducted the poll every year since 2009.

Fresh graduates’ earnings were more than 40 per cent higher than the average Chinese urban resident’s 2016 monthly disposable income of 2,801 yuan, according to the report. Disposable income refers to income left over after deducting taxes and social insurance. They were also 30 per cent higher than the 3,366 yuan of just four years ago.

The cheapest iPhone 7 model, with a 32-gigabyte capacity, costs 5,388 yuan in mainland China, where the phones are highly popular.

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By comparison, US college graduates’ median starting salary is US$47,358 annually, or around US$3,950 a month assuming a 12-month package, according to a report by the non-profit National Association of Colleges and Employers. The monthly amount is enough to buy six 32GB iPhone 7s in the United States, where the phone costs US$649.

The annual salary figure was based on a survey of 5,600 bachelor’s degree students who indicated they would be graduating or had already graduated in the 2015/2016 academic year.

In Japan, the starting monthly salary for college graduates was about US$1,800 in 2015, according to data from the country’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

New graduates in Malaysia – whose average GDP per capita is the closest to China’s among other Asian countries – earned between US$491 and US$585 in 2015, according to recruitment platform JobStreet.

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The survey showed that Chinese graduates in the nine southern provinces, the heartland of the hi-tech manufacturing industry, had the highest income, at 4,676 yuan a month, while those in the traditional heavy industrial northeast’s three provinces earned the least, at 3,647 yuan per month.

However some said they felt the figures in the survey were higher than what they actually earned.

Bai Lifei, 26, from the city of Baiyin in Gansu, one of China’s poorest provinces, said starting salaries there for fresh graduates were only between 1,800 and 2,500 yuan a month.

“For those who have already worked for several years, they earn 2,500 to 3,500 yuan,” he said.

Even in Guangzhou, in the affluent Guangdong province, average salaries for new graduates were lower than those in the survey, according to Tang Jie, who graduated last year from Ningbo University and is now working in a local Guangzhou firm.

Most of his classmates made around 3,000 yuan a month, he said, and most lived from paycheck to paycheck, spending all their earnings each month.