We looked at data from 14 leading sources, both local and international, to compare and find out what a reasonable salary range is for a software engineer in one of China’s first-tier cities.
According to data from 14 leading sources:
In 2023, the average salary for a software engineer in China was ¥406,549 RMB ($55,938 USD) per year.
The median salary was ¥388,000 RMB ($53,386 USD) per year.
Infographic: Average Software Engineer Salary in China
Red Shades = Local HR Companies
Blue = International HR Companies
Green = Data Aggregators
It’s further interesting to note the big difference in averages once we break down the source type:
Local HR companies average salary: ¥206,346 RMB ($28,392 USD) per year.
International HR companies average salary: ¥487,500 RMB ($67,076 USD) per year.
Data Aggregators average salary: ¥344,750 RMB ($47,435 USD) per year.
When we started recruiting for companies in China years ago, we noticed a huge range in recommended and listed salaries for similar roles. This is a first step to quantifying these big, perplexing differences and attempting to make sense of them.
- Local data sources reflected the lowest average salary for software engineers, as well as most other positions.
- Data aggregators, as expected, were mostly situated in the middle of the pack. The exception here is Payscale, reflecting salary figures closer to the local China providers.
- International data providers have the biggest range among them and are skewed a lot higher than other source types.
Why such a Big Difference in Listed Salaries?
Of the 14 sources listed, the lowest average software engineer salary listed is RMB ¥203,000 per year (USD $28,000), and the highest at RMB ¥650,000 per year (USD $89,000) – that’s a range of RMB ¥447,000 per year (USD $61,000).
Different Target Audiences
Simply put, each company listed put out its data for different reasons and different eyeballs.
For example, the international firms releasing this type of information tend to have headhunting and/or executive search arms, and thus target their potential and existing client pool at multinational companies.
Different Data Points
While some of the salary listings are more generalized than others, all are based on some sort of data collected.
The local sources, Zhilian Zhaopin & Liepin, are pulling from their own sets of data – which happen to be from hundreds of thousands of job listings across their platforms. It’s important to note that their data reflects recruited salaries, or the publicly listed salary information that companies advertise on the platforms, and not the final salary actually received on contract. Actual salaries received may be higher as 1) candidates negotiate, and 2) employers often have internal thresholds and benefits that they can offer above the advertised package.
International sources are also likely to be pulling on some of their own data and experience. They are more likely to have higher requirements from clients for things like language (bilingual+ candidates only) and international working experience or education. Furthermore, a large portion of the data that these foreign HR firms have likely comes from larger multinationals (MNCs), which generally pay higher than local Chinese employers.
In order to attract great talent in China, foreign companies (and any companies for that matter) are wise to budget a compensation package that is above the industry average.
More from our series on salaries in China:
Hiring in China?
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Hiring in China? We can help, and stay within your budget! Our China Recruiter Pro service helps companies utilize leading Chinese platforms just like Liepin & Zhilian Zhaopin. Contact Us for a free consultation to discuss hiring goals, salary & compensation budgets in China, and if TeamedUp China is the right fit to support your organization.
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References & Further Reading:
- Zhilian Zhaopin: https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/624693425
- Liepin: https://www.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_23851263
- Payscale: https://www.payscale.com/research/CN/Job=Software_Engineer/Salary/9d44f18e/Shanghai
- Persol Kelly: https://www.persolkelly.com/salary-guides/
- Michael Page: https://www.michaelpage.com.cn/en/salary-report/2023/thank-you-client
- Glassdoor: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/china-software-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,5_IN48_KO6,23.htm
- Salary Expert: https://www.salaryexpert.com/salary/job/software-developer/china
- Economic Research Institute: https://www.erieri.com/salary/job/computer-software-engineer/china
- JSC Group: https://appcdn.jingsocial.com/upload/material/1679392572/2023%20Hays%20Asia%20Salay%20Guide_CN_EN.pdf
- Morgan McKinley: https://email-assets.morganmckinley.com/salary-guide/2023/pdfs/china-en-salary-guide-2023.pdf
- Hays Group: https://appcdn.jingsocial.com/upload/material/1679392572/2023%20Hays%20Asia%20Salay%20Guide_CN_EN.pdf
- Robert Half: https://www.roberthalf.cn/en/salary-guide/home
- Robert Walters: https://engage.robertwalters.com/team-salary-benchmark-tool-2023/
- Gemini Global: https://gemini-global.com/salary_guides/63ef5c35d4d14China%20Salary%20Guide%20Q1_2023_Final.pdf