Kerching! The Financial Benefits of Working in China

Kerching! The Financial Benefits of Working in China
Feb 07, 2019 By Alistair Baker-Brian ,

Working in China is a big step for many, but it can be a very worthwhile one given the financial benefits offered by both employers and the government. High salaries and generous benefits are used as a way to attract top talent from abroad, while the low cost of living makes saving money easy if you’re smart.


It’s no secret that the majority of expats working in China are employed as teachers. Neither is it a secret that expat teachers tend to be offered better salaries than their Chinese counterparts.

On the teaching jobs page, the lowest teaching salaries tend to be around RMB5,000 (USD721) per month. Such jobs, however, usually require very few hours. For example, it’s not uncommon for university teaching positions to require only two days of work per week.

The same page shows the highest teaching salaries, most of which are found at international schools, to be around RMB30,000 (USD4,312) per month. In the middle are training centres (private education institutes) and Chinese private schools, which may offer anything from around RMB12,000 (USD1,725) to RMB20,000 (USD2,875) per month.

If teaching is not for you, don’t fret. Countless Chinese companies are also looking for expats to work as copywriters, editors, IT technicians and more. A brief glance on the non-teaching jobs page reveals salaries similar to, if not higher than, those of teaching jobs.

Consider too that for entry level jobs, many expats can get paid more in China than they would in their home countries for the simple fact that being a foreigner is a commodity here.


Both employers and the Chinese government are under no illusion that moving to China can be costly for expats. As such, they’re often not shy to offer financial benefits other than salary.

My previous teaching job came with a bonus of RMB6,000 (USD862) every six months to cover the cost of flights home. Many others provide free accommodation or offer a monthly accommodation allowance.

In my current home of Shenzhen, my employer is required by the city’s government to offer reimbursement for flights, accommodation, meals, Chinese language training and even laundry. An employee can claim up to 40 percent of his or her monthly salary upon presentation of an official receipt (fāpiào). For those who move to Shenzhen with their families, reimbursement for children’s education is also available.

As a special economic zone, the rules in Shenzhen regarding government reimbursement for expats are designed to attract employees from overseas. Other cities have their own rules about what benefits are offered, so be sure to look this up.

Ultimately, you should check your employment contract for benefits before accepting a job in China. Your monthly salary may look attractive, but consider this in the context of monthly expenses on bills and accommodation as well as annual flights home. Many employers will be willing to offer you benefits other than a handsome monthly salary, so look for the best deal you can get.

Cost of living

Perhaps your China job doesn’t pay as well as one would in your home country, but consider it in the context of the cost of living, which in most of mainland China is still low compared to the developed world. estimates the overall cost of living in China to be 44.87 percent lower on average than in the United States, but of course there are variations by city. For example, the average rent for a one-bedroom inner-city apartment in China is estimated at RMB3,531 (USD508), whereas for Shanghai it’s RMB6,877 (USD989).

However, these variations also tend to be accounted for by employers. Salaries and benefits in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou (the four most expensive cities in China) will most likely be higher than those in second or third-tier cities.

How much of your salary you save will also be determined by what sort of lifestyle you want to live while working in China. Buying food from local markets and cooking for yourself or eating at inexpensive local restaurants will help you save a lot of money in the long run. Eating Western food at expat bars and restaurants, however, may be priced similarly to your home country.

Money isnt everything

Of course, financial benefits should not be the only factor in your decision to work in China. A high monthly salary will be of little comfort if you’re miserable during your entire stay in the Middle Kingdom. But on the other hand, a fulfilling “cultural experience” (whatever that actually means) may not be worth it if you end up eating into your savings.

As is necessary when considering any job or life change, you have to look at everything on balance. But given the efforts by government and employers to attract talent from overseas, many financial benefits await expats who make smart employment decisions in China.

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Most of the schools provide accommodation for foreigner. Some even includes two meals a day on teaching day. This is a huge savings though.

Sep 17, 2020 10:29 Report Abuse



very useful information, thank you.

Jun 22, 2020 10:13 Report Abuse



A teachers job is more than just teaching classes. You may be called a teacher in a training centre but you are not you are a trainer. The difference is that you don't need and are not required to use essential skills that a teacher would need such as classroom management, building a student-teacher relationship, preparing for classes and providing pastoral care. Training centres are absolutely fine for a short time to make money quickly but you are never going to have any job satisfaction from working there. Students won't respect you and there are very few career prospects. It's true it is a lot harder to work in an international school than a training centre but the long term benefits are way higher. Good jobs are not easy jobs...

Feb 24, 2019 21:23 Report Abuse