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'Salary Show' Hits the Net
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Asking a person how much they earn is considered as rude as asking a woman her age. But not on the Internet!

China's professionals are detailing their salaries under assumed names on the Net as the country's Spring Festival approaches. Most urban Chinese have now got their salaries and year-end bonuses and many of them are participating in the Net's 'Shaigongzi' or 'Salary Show' to let anyone interested know what their after-tax pay packets were. 

Google the key words 'gong zi tiao' -- Chinese for pay slip -- and you get 286,000 results in a twentieth of a second. Key them into Baidu, China's largest search engine, to get 1.12 million results in one-thousandth of a second.

Reportedly started by a group of white collar workers the Net posting of salary details is a fast growing craze. Some post their earnings to share their excitement and others to vent their frustration!

"I need a new job! My bills are piling up for rent, telephone, water and power," says a netizen named 'Alibaba', who works for an advertising agency in Shandong Province, and has an after-tax annual income of 20,000 yuan (US$2,564). 

But for 'Mr Song', an employee of a foreign enterprise in Shenzhen, his message is self congratulatory. "With an annual income of at least 580,000 yuan (US$74,454), my wife and I are quite well off. My company pays for our accommodation and car so I can say I have nothing to worry about," he writes.

'Sohu', a leading Chinese Internet portal, categorizes pay slips by occupation and civil servants, bank employees, foreign trade agents, securities analysts and executives of listed companies get the most clicks.

"Besides flaunting their income or complaining (about the lack of it), most people are eager to know what others in their profession get and if they can keep up with them," says Sun Yuxiao, a psychiatrist with Beijing Bo'ai Counseling and Psychotherapy Center.

Since income is a sensitive subject the anonymous 'Salary Show' provides a convenient database that everyone can access, Sun says.

Pay slips used to be transparent under the planned economy because salaries were paid according to technical rank with everyone earning a fixed sum. But with China's transformation into a market economy companies prefer to keep salaries and bonuses confidential and use them as an incentive.

According to Sohu.com's Finance Channel the best paid jobs are in telecommunications and foreign enterprises in east China where monthly after-tax incomes are 7,000 to 10,000 yuan (US$897 to US$1,282 ).

Tax bureaus, banks, industrial and commercial firms, customs and financial institutions are the moderate payers at 2,000 to 3,000 yuan (US$256-385) a month. The lowest paid jobs are middle-school teachers and civil servants in western China with after-tax salaries being 800 to 1,000 yuan (US$103-128).

Official figures show the average annual income of town and city residents last year hit US$1,740. Since Internet users in China tend to be young and well educated it's possible that their average salary exceeds the official figures, says Wu Xin, an IT firm employee in Beijing who earns 3,600 yuan (US$461) a month after tax.

(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2007)

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