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'White-collar' definition evolves with China

(Xinhua)

08:26, May 21, 2012

Decent pay, a nice office and stylish dress have been considered the trappings of a white-collar worker. But in today's China, where the public widely pictures the group as symbols of a quality and leisurely lifestyle, it seems having these credentials is no longer enough to meet expectations.

To keep pace with consumer and employment developments, Chinese netizens recently came up with updated criteria for workers to be labeled white-collar. Much-discussed online in the past few months, the new requirements not only put entry to the club out of reach for most earners, but have sparked discussion about Chinese society's rising affluence and the consequences of that trend.

Drafted in early 2012, the criteria state that to be a white-collar worker one needs to earn a monthly salary of at least 20,000 yuan (US$3,170), own an apartment with at least two bedrooms and a car worth around 150,000 yuan.

The list immediately became a hot topic as many wage earners, found they were off the pace.

It inspired the Legal Evening News and Chinese recruitment website 51job.com to conduct an online survey. According to results published last Monday, only three of 562 interviewed office workers met all the requirements, while 22 said their salaries exceed the threshold.

"The first standard (20,000-yuan threshold) is enough to put me off ... it turns out that I have no 'collar' at all," said an entry posted on Weibo.com, the popular microblogging site.

The criteria reflects China's public opinions on the financial requirements of leading a leisurely life amid rising prices.

Xia Xueluan, a professor of social psychology at Peking University, said the criteria showed there is a big gap between Chinese white-collar workers' expected salaries and reality, which put them in a constant state of insecurity and anxiety.

"Four years ago, people with an annual salary of 100,000 yuan were regarded as white collar. As I finally managed to earn that money, the standard has more than doubled," said a post by "Tang Boxiaohu."

The complaint came as China's inflation in recent years has significantly eroded incomes and driven up living costs. Last year, inflation went beyond the government's full-year target of 4 percent, hitting 5.4 percent, and only began to show signs of easing this year.

In sharp contrast to popular conceptions, most Chinese office workers crowd onto buses and subways to commute to work, and save all they can to cover the creeping price of shelter, food and transportation.

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:梁军、马茜)

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