China Focus: Rising minimum wages fuel "sense of gain"
BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Kelsang, a street cleaner in Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, was thrilled to get a higher salary for last month.
"My salary keeps going up every year. Now I earn over 4,000 yuan (630 U.S. dollars) a month, twice as much as my 2,000 yuan in monthly pay when I took the job years back," she said.
Though she has to work from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. on work days, Kelsang can't complain much because her income covers the family's expenses and she can support her son through college.
Starting this year, the regional government of Tibet raised the minimum monthly and hourly wages to 1,650 yuan and 16 yuan, respectively, up from the previous 1,400 yuan and 13 yuan.
Besides Tibet, provinces and regions in other parts of China including Jiangxi, Liaoning and Guangxi have all raised minimum wages. Shanghai and Anhui also planned to raise their standards soon.
Thanks to the raised minimum wages, 45-year-old Huang Changjiang, a security guard at a construction site in Nanchang in east China's Jiangxi Province, is planning to buy an apartment.
With free meals and accommodation, he earns 3,500 yuan a month, 1,000 yuan more than a year earlier. His wife, who came to Nanchang with him two years ago, works in a supermarket near the construction site and gets paid 3,000 yuan a month.
The couple saved 60,000 yuan last year. If all things go as planned, they will be able to put together a down payment for an apartment back home in southwest China's Sichuan Province.
The inland province is relatively underdeveloped compared with coastal areas in China. However, Jiangxi has led the country in raising minimum wages. After four rounds of wage bumps since 2012, the province now has minimum monthly and hourly wages of 1,680 yuan and 16.8 yuan, almost double the figures from six years ago.
Shanghai's current minimum monthly wage of 2,300 yuan -- the highest in China -- was adopted in April. Shenzhen, Tianjin, Beijing and some parts of Zhejiang Province also have a minimum monthly wage of over 2,000 yuan.
The standard of minimum wage should be set according to local development, hence the regional differences, said Li Chungen, president of the School of Finance and Public Administration under Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics.
Li said price control authorities should pay close attention to the rising price of commodities, which can jeopardize the "sense of gain" for low-income groups.
Of course, fueling people's "sense of gain" cannot depend solely on minimum wages, according to Zhang Yuan, a Party secretary of a sub-district in Shanghai.
"Even with raised minimum wages, families can still fall back into poverty due to serious diseases or accidents," Zhang said. "A more comprehensive and refined social welfare network is also needed."