Do employers take advantage of Chinese college students?
“Who can you hire for 2000RMB a month? University students!”
That is what I heard last night as a joke, but it is actually much worse than that. Now, in China, university students are a huge group. Back in the old days, going to a proper university was such an honor, and it was easy to find jobs after graduating. But nowadays, it is not really an honor thing — not even close. Many university students do part-time jobs to make some money to support themselves. I do too, and now, I am happy to share my experience.
When I was a freshman at my university, I worked at a training school. I didn’t really do any teaching there. The pay was 13RMB per hour (about US$2.25), which is not bad compared to other jobs. I quit the next semester because I had too many classes. This year, I am planning to save a lot of money for my trip to the United States. The lady I used to work for at the school invited me to lunch one day, and, at the end, she asked me if I wanted to work at the school again. She is a very nice girl; I trusted her from the beginning. The pay last year was not bad, so I said yes without asking anything about the salary, which was very stupid of me.
This time around, I actually teach classes, so I thought the pay must be higher than last time (the average salary for Chinese teachers in English training centers is 40RMB per hour (about US$6.50) in Changsha, the city I live in.) I thought she would pay me at least 30 per hour.
I started working there on October 25. I didn’t ask anything about the pay thing, and she didn’t bring up the topic either, which she should have done at the very beginning. I met a girl there who happens to go to the same university I do, and she worked there during the summer. I asked how much she made a month or an hour. She said she worked 10 days a month and made 500RMB a month during the summer. All of a sudden, I was like, “Oh! That is too low. That is not what I am thinking, not at all. Maybe I should talk to her about it.”
I talked to a friend about it, and he was like, “That is ridiculous! You should ask her right away before you are stuck with it.” Then that day, I asked her, “Hey, I want to know if you are paying us by hour or just by month?” She said just by the month, and I said, “Oh, OK.” Conversation ended. She didn’t say how much a month either. And I didn’t know how to ask about it. I just came back with a huge question mark in my head.
“Maybe she pays more when I actually give classes — she should, anyway,” I thought, trying to stay positive. “Maybe the other girl just did an assistant job in the summer.”
Yesterday, I talked to my coworker again, and she told me she doesn’t want to work there anymore — the pay is too low. I asked how much she got. We worked about the same hours a month, around 40 hours.
“400RMB. That was the salary for September, and I have to wait until December to get the paycheck for October.”
Wait a minute, 400RMB? Are you kidding me? How can it be so little? I was so pissed. Our boss was busy when I left, so I waited until I got home and sent her a message asking how much she pays. She didn’t message me back for the next three hours.
I talked to my friends about it, and they all couldn’t believe it.
“You are working as a teacher, right?”
“Oh my god, are you kidding me?”
“You should quit it right now — she is taking advantage of you.”
“She won’t message you back — don’t you know that?”
I finally messaged her again with just, “Hello?” She called me back within two minutes this time. This is exactly what she said on the phone: “Oh we are not paying by hour this year; we pay just by the month. In the beginning, it is 300RMB every month, and then after two months, it is 400. We will adjust the salary every one to two months. Each time will be 100 more.”
I am not doing it. 300!!! This is even worse. It is only 7.5RMB per hour. A factory worker makes more than that in one day. She is absolutely taking advantage of us! No doubt!
On Monday evening, I will go there for two hours, but it will take me 80 minutes on my bike to drive there and back. So for 13RMB, I have to spend three and a half hours of my time. When the winter comes, I will have to take the bus. It will take three hours to travel there and back, and 8RMB, so, for 13RMB I have to spend five hours to only make 5RMB! Am I out of my mind doing this?
So, speaking from experience: If you are a university student and looking for a part-time job, follow these rules: 1) Find a job you really like. You can really get experience from it. 2) Ask about your salary at the very beginning, don’t be shy about it. You have the right to decide if you will work there or not. Be fair and clear at the beginning. 3) Don’t trust people so easily. Some people just take advantage of you when they see you are young and innocent. 4) Don’t work too cheap. Know what your time is worth.