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How much do you have to earn to be ‘middle class’ in China?

As I’ve mentioned before, when you’re evaluating a TEFL salary, in China or anywhere else, you want to take into account (a) how much other foreign teachers earn and (b) how much you’re earning compared to locals. This will ensure that you’re at least earning the market rate and that you won’t be relatively poor. It’s hard to find reliable data on either of these for China (hence this site), but part of an article from this week’s Economist seems useful:

McKinsey, a consultancy, reckons that in 2012 only 14% of urban households belonged to what it calls the “upper-middle class” (with an annual household income of 106,000 – 229,000 yuan, or $16,000-34,000, in 2010 real terms) and 54% to the “mass middle-class” (with an income of 60,000 – 106,000 yuan).

McKinsey have quite a bit of interesting research on China’s middle class that’s well worth reading if you’re interested in Chinese consumers. The full list of income brackets as per McKinsey are:

LabelHousehold Annual Disposable Income
Affluent>229,000 RMB
Upper middle class106,000–229,000 RMB
Mass middle class60,000-106,000 RMB
Poor<60,000 RMB

Note, though, that McKinsey refers to annual disposable household income, not simply household income as the Economist states. Even so, a typical university TEFL salary of 5,000 RMB/month would be at the extreme low end of the “mass middle class” category.

1 comment… add one
  • mmm October 18, 2014, 8:23 pm

    … Howdy Luke … to be upper middle class in Beijing … I think you would need to make more than 700,000 rmb plus per year … I have been here a long time … university teachers make quite variable salaries … our neighbor moved out of his 240 square meter apartment to a villa … he was a professor with lots of side project jobs … this is a quite common phenomenon … I have quite a few educated Beijing friends who make 15 to 70 thousand rmb per month … if it is a couple then you can double that … they are still definitely middle middle class … published salaries have no reality compared to real salaries for Beijing educated folks with a local hukou etc etc …. you can’t buy half a million to a million dollar USD homes on the so called published salaries … not to mention 30 to 100 thousand dollar USD cars that most of my friends buy …. I feel poor compared to some of them … my car is only a lowly cheap Buick 🙂 God Bless, MMM

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