Zhang Qi's dream to one day own an apartment looks set to remain just that.
The property he had his heart set on two years ago has since doubled in price, to 10,000 yuan ($1,320) per square meter.
Zhang earns 6,000 yuan a month and his average annual salary increase is just 6 percent. The down payment alone on the apartment is 300,000 yuan.
Whether it is housing, petrol or pork prices, Zhang, like most people, is finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
A recent survey conducted by the China Youth Daily showed that 85 percent of those interviewed said their salary increases were less than the country's average annual growth rate: 12 percent, according to the National Statistics Bureau.
Figures show the country is going through its fastest-ever period of growth since it began opening up 30 years ago.
The annual wages of an average worker rose from 12,422 yuan in 2002 to 21,001 yuan in 2006, the survey said.
Going against the trend, 7 percent of those polled said their salaries had fallen over the four-year period.
Of the 1,604 people interviewed, 64 percent said their salary rises could not match the soaring economic development.
"My colleagues and I all questioned the 12 percent increase. It's just not real," Zhang, a software engineer with a leading IT company in Beijing, said.
"Most of us get a pay rise of about 400 yuan a year. Some haven't had a rise for two years."
Zhang said his pay rises were nothing compared to the rising prices of consumer goods.
The survey might explain the income disparity between national statistics and public opinion polls.
In terms of who or what contributes most to the average growth of annual salaries, the survey showed that 50 percent people pointed to monopoly industries, 41 percent to companies' management teams, and 8.1 percent to ordinary employees. According to the China Economic Times, in 2005, some 8 percent of the country's workforce, most employed by major State-owned companies, earned 55 percent of the total salaries.
The remaining 92 percent must be those who said their salaries didn't rise, Xinhua News Agency columnist Guo Songmin said.
(China Daily July 11, 2007)