Their ranks may be growing but their wages aren’t keeping up. Pay for China’s 163 million migrant workers is slowing along with the nation’s economy.
According to a survey by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, the average monthly wage for a migrant worker was 2,290 yuan, $370 in US dollars. A US dollar is equivalent to 6.1316 Chinese yuan.
Although the average wage for Chinese migrant workers increased by 11.8 percent, the increase was only half of the 21.2 percent increase of 2012.
Minimum wages for Chinese workers are slated by the government to increase every year by 13 percent until 2015. The total increase will make the minimum wage 40 percent of the average provincial salary.
Additional slowdowns in pay are expected as China’s economic growth continues to cool.
“Wages jumped 53 percent over three years to 2012, which translates into an annual average growth of 17.6 percent,” said Liu Kaiming, director of a Shenzhen workers rights group.
“So it would be natural for wage growth to slow down at some point,” he said. “I believe it will slow further in the next two years.”
Minimum wages, however, are not uniform throughout the country, nor is their rate of increase.
Workers in Shenzhen are paid the highest minimum wages, with an increase of 6.7 percent. Minimum wages in China’s principal cities, Beijing and Shanghai, and in Zhejiang province, grew 11 to 17 percent. Wages in Guangdong spiked a whopping 19.1 percent this year. In 2012, however, the provincial government did not raise wages due to the slowing economy.
A statement from the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, comprised mostly of factory operators in the Pearl River Delta, attributed the slow wage increases to the steady double-digit salary increases in recent years and warned that the increases could no longer be sustained.
But prospects for future wages remain unclear, with opposing opinions from industry and government.
For example, Ching Shing-hum, president of the Hong King Exporter’s Association, expects wages to grow annually by an average of 10 to 12 percent in the next two years because of a shrinking labor market and an increasing demand.