September 11th, 2009 | Global Times Blue and white collar wages in gray area
A college graduate who just began working as a translator at a Beijing firm earns less than the waiter who serves him lunch.
It’s a common yet not a surprising phenomenon, according to a report on population and labor released Tuesday.
The report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) found the salary gap between college graduates and experienced young migrant workers is closing. Some fresh graduates are actually making even less than migrant workers in the same age group.
Liang Xiaoyun, 22, who graduated from the Central University of Finance and Economics, makes 800 ($117) yuan a month as a translator during her two-month probation period. She is expected to make 1,200 yuan ($176) afterwards.
“I was disappointed with the pay, but I am luckier when compared with my peers, some of whom are still wandering job fairs,” Liang said.
By comparison, a young migrant worker in Beijing makes between 1,300 yuan ($190) and 1,500 yuan ($220) a month.
“With the increasing supply of college graduates and a dwindling number of young migrant workers, the salaries of the two groups are bound to level off,” said Wu Yaowu, associate professor at the academy’s Institute of Population and Labor Economics.
The situation was similar even in 2005 when the National Bureau of Statistics found that college graduates between 21 and 22 year olds, and young migrant workers, made similar monthly salaries.
It said graduates earned between 1,000 yuan ($146) and 2,000 yuan ($293), and young migrant workers made slightly more.
Migrant workers dominate a number of blue-collar jobs that demand long hours. They include most construction workers, massage therapists, housekeepers, waiters, hairdressers and delivery workers.
Currently, the average monthly income for migrant workers is 1,400 yuan, according to Yin Weimin, minister of Human Resources and Social Security.
Dong Weiming, 44, a bricklayer from Heilongjiang Province now working with a road repair project on Guanghua Road in Beijing, said, “We are paid on a project by project basis. Young workers could get 1,500 yuan ($220) a month.”
However, a shop assistant from the rural areas may earn between 4,000 yuan ($486) and 10,000 yuan ($1,465) a month, plus commission on sales, according to Liu Qian, a sales manager in Beijing.
However, many migrants swork 12 hours or more each day compared to an average 6 hours for office workers.
“In some cases, migrant workers are justified in getting big pays because of the risks that come with their jobs such as window cleaners of high-rise buildings,” said Geng Shen, a researcher at the Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences.
Academics said the shortage of young migrant workers and an increasing number of college graduates is one reason for the closing gap between their incomes.
“There has been a severe shortage of young migrant workers since 2003,” Wu said.
Wu said that overall, the young population is lower and that means the number of young rural laborers is also going down. At the same time, the number of college graduates has increased five folds since 1998.
College graduates who expect to land prestigious jobs tend to loath blue-collar work.
“There is a mismatch between expectations and the realities for college graduates,” said Geng.
“Graduates should not be trained to believe a college degree guarantees a respectable job and higher salary,” he said. “Instead, they should be given more vocational skills that are more compatible with the job market.”
By Song Shengxia