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October 23, 2012

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Revealed! Salary threshold for living comfortably in big cities

China's online community is agog with discussion after a survey suggested a salary threshold of around 9,000 yuan (US$1,439) per month to enjoy a comfortable life in first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

Many netizens, who are paid less, were quick to point out that they could hardly make ends meet with their current salaries.

The survey, released by Xinhua news agency yesterday, showed that a person's salary should reach at least 9,250 yuan if one wants a decent life in Shanghai, ranking first among all Chinese cities.

The figure is more than twice the average monthly income of Shanghai employees last year, which is 4,331 yuan, and six times the minimum salary in Shanghai, at 1,450 yuan.

The survey naturally raised the frustration levels among many less-paid locals, who not only feel the pain of the high cost of living but also the pressure to buy a house. "If earning 9,000 yuan a month is a benchmark for feeling comfortable, don't I live in panic every day?" a netizen named "Gege's cat" wrote on her microblog.

For those living in second and third-tier cities, such as Hangzhou and Suzhou and Chengdu, the survey indicated a salary of at least 5,000 yuan for a comfortable living.

Jennifer Feng, a senior human resource analyst with, a Nasdaq-listed headhunting firm, said the internet buzz over the survey is a reflection of the pressure on people living in big cities and the uncertainty about their future.

"Put the 9,000 yuan aside. The uneasiness that most people living in big cities feel comes from two worries resulting from a weak global economy.

"The first is whether one can keep their income stable under the current gloomy financial environment. The other is whether their income is enough to support their life in case of sudden changes," Feng said, adding that generally speaking, a person with a monthly income of 9,000 yuan has five years' work experience and is at a turning point in life, for example, getting married, having a baby or job promotion.

"The living cost goes up when changes happen, which can affect life quality," Feng explained.

But most local people seemed to believe that living happily is more a matter of attitude rather than money, even in cities with a higher consumption level.

"I think it is the survey that is causing panic among people. Many of my friends earn less than 9,000 yuan a month and live a happy life in Shanghai. Being comfortable or not depends very much on one's lifestyle," said Vanessa Qi, an employee of a local real estate company.

Qi cited one of her friends, surnamed Xia, as an example. Xia, 23, earns about 5,000 yuan a month. She spends 1,500 yuan on rents and sends 1,000 yuan home to her parents. She has almost no savings but enjoys working and hanging out with her friends.


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