China's minimum wage continues to rise, with local governments required to update their standards every few years to reflect regional conditions. The minimum wage serves as a legally mandated pay rate for employees in the country, but does not typically include overtime pay, allowances, or welfare benefits.

For companies operating in China, it is important to understand the impact of minimum wage on both their business and employees. Recent updates to Chinese minimum wage laws have also been implemented, and it is vital for companies to stay up-to-date on any changes.

Keep reading to learn more about how the minimum wage affects companies and employees in China and the latest updates to the law.

An Introduction to Minimum Wages in China

China's minimum wage system is determined by local governments, which have the power to set minimum wage rates based on the specific needs and conditions of their respective regions. As of April 12, 2023, Shanghai boasts the highest monthly minimum wage among all 31 provinces at RMB 2,590 (equivalent to US$400) per month, while Beijing has the highest hourly minimum wage at RMB 25.3 (equivalent to US$3.9) per hour.

The minimum wage is subject to periodic review and adjustment to reflect changes in inflation and the labor market. While the minimum wage is designed to ensure that workers receive a fair wage for their work, certain exemptions and limitations apply to its application. Moreover, enforcing the minimum wage can be challenging in some industries and regions.

Latest updates of the minimum wage law

The sick pay has been increased during the period of sick leave.

As per regulations, sick leave wages have seen an increase. When an employee takes a leave of absence due to illness or non-work-related injury within six months, the company is required to pay sick leave wages based on the following standards:

The company must pay at least 80% of the minimum wage standard for city employees during the year of sickness pay or sickness relief for the duration of the employee's sick leave.

In the event that the minimum wage standard is raised, sick leave wages will also increase proportionally.

Employees in their probationary period are now receiving higher pay than previously.

According to the Labor Contract Law, the probation period is included in the labor contract period.

During this period, the wages of laborers must not be lower than the minimum salary of the same position or 80% of the wages agreed in the labor contract, and it must not be lower than the minimum wage standard in the location of the employer.

Therefore, the company is obligated to guarantee the minimum wage standard.

Recently, it has become common for companies in China to pay their probationary employees more than before. This is due to various factors, including rising living costs, inflation, and China's minimum wage laws. China's minimum wage varies by region and is the lowest amount legally payable to employees. Some regions have seen a steady increase in the minimum wage over the years to keep up with rising living costs.

By offering higher wages during the probationary period, companies can attract better-quality candidates and motivate employees to work harder and perform better. A fair wage can also motivate and retain employees, leading to increased job satisfaction, productivity, and performance.

In conclusion, the minimum wage in China plays a significant role in determining wages for employees, including those on probationary periods. Companies may pay their probationary employees more than the minimum wage to attract better candidates, incentivize hard work, and retain employees. Ultimately, a fair wage can lead to better job performance, increased productivity, and higher job satisfaction.

If the employer stops production, labor remuneration payments will be increased.

Article 12 of the “Interim Provisions on Wage Payments” stipulates:

  • If the company stops work or production and this is not caused by a worker's reason, the employer shall pay the worker's wages in accordance with the standards stipulated in the labor contract.

The level of economic compensation for employees has risen.

Article 47 of the “Labor Contract Law”stipulates:

  • economic compensation is paid to the worker according to the standard of the worker’s length of work in the company and one month salary per full year (based on the worker’s 12 months before the labor contract is terminated). The average wage is the standard, if it is lower than the minimum wage standard, it will be calculated according to the local minimum wage standard. If the minimum wage standard is raised, the economic compensation received will also increase.

Explanations Regarding Minimum Wages in China

1) Why do minimum wage rates differ among China's provinces and cities?

China's diverse regions and economic conditions have a significant impact on the cost of living and the minimum wage. As a result, the minimum wage fluctuates from province to province and even within cities in the same province. Several reasons explain why there are differences in the minimum wage across different regions in China.

To begin with, living costs vary greatly across China's regions. Urban areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou typically have higher living costs than rural areas. This includes the cost of food, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities. Consequently, the minimum wage in urban areas is generally higher to reflect the higher cost of living.

Secondly, the economic conditions of each province and city differ. Some provinces have higher costs of living and stronger economies than others. In these areas, the minimum wage is relatively higher than in less developed regions with weaker economies.

Thirdly, the local government determines the minimum wage in China, and each province and city has its own standards. The government considers factors such as the cost of living, the local economy, and the labor market when setting the minimum wage. This means that the minimum wage may vary based on the local government policies and priorities.

In addition, variations in minimum wage standards can also be due to higher labor demand in certain regions. Employers in these regions may be forced to offer better wages to attract and retain workers, leading to higher minimum wage standards.

Lastly, social and cultural factors can also influence the minimum wage. For example, some areas may place a bigger emphasis on social welfare and income equality, leading to higher minimum wage standards.

In summary, the minimum wage in China varies due to factors such as the cost of living, economic conditions, government policies, labor demand, and cultural and social factors. The minimum wage plays a crucial role in protecting workers' rights and ensuring a fair wage for their labor. Understanding the reasons behind the differences can help policymakers and employers make informed decisions about setting wages and improving labor conditions.

2) Is social insurance and housing fund included in the minimum wage?

There is no consistent approach across local regulations regarding whether the "five insurances and one payment" are included in the minimum wage standard. Consequently, the value of the minimum wage varies across regions.

In most areas, social insurance and housing fund payments are explicitly included in the minimum wage standard. For instance, Sichuan has clarified that the minimum wage standard incorporates social insurance premiums and housing accumulation funds that individuals should pay.

However, some regions clearly state that social insurance premiums and housing provident funds payable by individual workers are not part of the minimum wage standard. Beijing and Shanghai are examples of such regions, where employers are required to pay these separately according to regulations.

3) What if the wage is lower than the minimum wage?

As per the "Minimum Wage Regulation," when an employee is under a legal employment relationship,the company is obligated to pay a salary that should not fall below the local minimum wage, excluding the following items:

  • Pay for extended working hours;
  • Allowances for special working conditions, such as middle shift, night shift, high temperature, low temperature, underground, toxic, and harmful;
  • The laborer welfare treatment set by the law, code, and country.

In China, the government sets the minimum wage to guarantee that workers receive a just wage for their labor. However,there are instances where an individual's wage may be below the minimum wage. This can happen for various reasons, such as employer non-compliance, exploitation, or lack of awareness of the worker's rights. In such cases, it is crucial for the affected person to take action to safeguard their rights.

If a person's wage falls below the minimum wage, the first step is to comprehend their legal rights. The Chinese Labor Law states that every worker has the right to a minimum wage, and employers must abide by this law. If workers are not receiving the minimum wage, they have the right to file a complaint with the labor department. Employers who violate the minimum wage law can face legal action, fines, or other penalties.

It is also essential for workers to maintain records of their work hours, pay stubs, and relevant documents. This can aid them in proving that their wage is below the minimum wage and taking the appropriate legal measures. Workers can also seek legal assistance from lawyers or labor rights organizations to navigate the legal system.

In some circumstances, workers may fear retaliation from their employers for reporting minimum wage law violations. To address this issue, the Chinese government has established a hotline where workers can anonymously report violations. Workers can also seek support from labor rights organizations, trade unions, or other groups to protect their rights and advocate for fair labor practices.

In summary, if an individual's wage is below the minimum wage, they have the right to take action to protect their rights. Workers should be aware of their legal rights and maintain records of their work hours and pay. They can file a complaint with the labor department,seek legal assistance, or report violations anonymously to safeguard their rights. Employers who violate the minimum wage law can face penalties, fines,or legal action, which can help discourage future violations and promote fair labor practices.

4) Are there any circumstances where exemptions from the minimum wage apply? 

In China, certain exceptions to the minimum wage requirement exist, but they have restricted application. According to the Minimum Wage Regulations, some categories of workers may be exempt from the minimum wage requirement, including:

1. Interns: Interns who are still in school or training programs may not be subject to the minimum wage requirement.

2. Disabled employees: Employers may be allowed to pay disabled employees less than the minimum wage, depending on the severity of their disability and their ability to perform the job.

3. Domestic workers: Domestic workers who work in private households, such as nannies, cleaners, and caregivers, may not be subject to the minimum wage requirement.

4. Apprentices: Apprentices who are undergoing training may not be subject to the minimum wage requirement.

5. Part-timeworkers: Part-time workers may be exempt from the minimum wage requirement if they work fewer hours than a specific number per week.

It is essential to understand that these exemptions are limited and subject to specific conditions. For instance, employers must obtain approval from relevant authorities before paying disabled employees less than the minimum wage. Additionally, employers must ensure that their employees are not being mistreated or exploited, even if they are exempt from the minimum wage requirement.

In general, the exemptions from the minimum wage requirement in China are meant to offer flexibility for specific types of workers and employers. However, it is crucial to avoid exploiting or mistreating employees by using these exemptions.

5) How does the minimum wage affect the economy?

The impact of the minimum wage on the economy is a debatable issue among policymakers and economists. Advocates assert that the minimum wage can boost the economy by increasing consumer spending and reducing poverty. Conversely, opponents argue that it can result in job losses and higher prices.

Proponents of the minimum wage argue that it can boost the economy by providing low-wage workers with more money to spend, which can stimulate economic growth and job creation. Furthermore, higher the minimum wage can decrease poverty and income inequality, which can positively affect social mobility and economic stability.

However, opponents of the minimum wage contend that it can lead to job losses and higher prices, particularly in industries with low-wage workers. Employers may respond to a higher minimum wage by reducing their workforce, cutting working hours, or increasing prices to compensate for the higher labor expenses. This can lead to higher rates of unemployment and inflation.

In summary, the impact of the minimum wage on the economy depends on various factors, such as the minimum wage level, the labor market situation, and the economy's structure. While there is no consensus on the effects of the minimum wage, policymakers must carefully consider the potential pros and cons when establishing minimum wage policies.

6) What distinguishes a minimum wage from a living wage?

The minimum wage and living wage are two distinct concepts that are often confused with each other. The minimum wage is the lowest amount an employer is legally required to pay their employees for their work. Its purpose is to ensure that workers receive a fair wage for their labor.

In contrast, the living wage is the amount of money a person needs to earn to meet their basic needs, such as housing,food, healthcare, and transportation. Unlike the minimum wage, the living wage takes into account the cost of living in a particular area, as well as the needs of the worker and their family.

As it is designed to provide workers with a basic standard of living, the living wage is often higher than the minimum wage. The concept is based on the notion that all workers should earn enough money to support themselves and their families without having to rely on government assistance or other forms of support.

While the minimum wage is a legal requirement for all employers must follow, the living wage is not mandated bylaw. However, many businesses and organizations have implemented living wage policies to demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility and fair labor practices.

In brief, the difference between a minimum wage and living wage is that the minimum wage is the lowest amount employers must pay their workers, while the living wage is the amount workers require to meet their basic needs and attain a basic standard of living.


We trust that this article has provided you with a glimpse of the latest developments in China's wage legislation and the minimum wage standards in the country.

Our services are capable of managing your company's entire payroll in China while adhering to local regulations. As an independent consulting firm not owned by the state, we can employ workers on behalf of companies without a legal presence in China through our dedicated Employee Leasing/Talent Dispatching services.

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