Comparative salaries and net income: HK, Shanghai, Taipei

I’ve posted this in here because it’s more to do with money than anything else.

Let’s say you’re weighing up three options. I’m trying to form an opinion on local-hire expats for a headhunter friend of mine who’s got a candidate in Shanghai at the moment earning RMB27k and paying RMB7k rent. The candidate speaks good Mandarin and has 8 years HK experience (but no permanent HKID card), 3 years’ Shanghai experience, and only business-trip experience to Taiwan, all in Taipei. Likes it though, but is afraid it might be a career dead-end. The industry is professional services related to investment analysis. More report writing and research, not selling dodgy expat pensions or the like.

Hong Kong

HK$50k, which is NT$214k, or RMB44k a month. Paying no more than HK$20k for rent, which will probably mean living on an island. Not interested in a wee box in Mid-Levels and frankly who can blame him? Working in Central. After-rent income HK$30k, or RMB26k, or NT$129k. The possibility of an extra HK$10k a month in performance-related bonus paid annually.


RMB30k, leaving RMB23k after rent. This amounts to HK$26k, NT$111k. Not much of a raise, but a better company. Staying in his circle of contacts. Inflation is rampant in Shanghai, but then the RMB is rising. But he pays on-shore domestic Chinese tax. I have no idea how much this is as I, er, was paid, um, in Hong Kong when I lived there. But I reckon it’s taking about RMB3k a month out of his wages.


NT$150k a month gross, with NT$30k spent on rent, leaving NT$120k. This is HK$28k or RMB25k. No bonus. Working for a foreign company, but at a higher management level with opportunities to eventually run the Taiwan operation for more money. But may mean no return to China for several years, and there is a worry about being sidelined and missing the Big China Boom. This guy has a few expat friends in Taiwan so will likely not die of loneliness. On the other hand, he is likely to be flying back for social visits (weekend piss-ups in other words) to Shanghai which will eat into his income. Am I correct in assuming that the quickest way to get to Shanghai now is the bendy “direct” flight at around NT$20k return? He’ll be doing that socially once a month most likely. Crikey. NT$40k a month. Jeepers. He’s dreaming. Anyway…

The main question is, would Taiwan’s cheaper cost of living mean a greater disposable income?

No intention to own a scooter or car. Taxis everywhere. Likes a nice western style apartment. I told him NT$30k wouldn’t do it. More like NT$40k. But I suspect he could live on NT$100k and put the rest in the bank. He’s not saving in Shanghai, and I doubt he would on HK$50k in HK either. This is mainly because he is a complete beer monster (I know the guy well which is why I’m trying to help). Can we assume beer is still cheaper in Taiwan? It’s about NT$240 a pint in the pubs in Shanghai. On the other hand there is the issue of missed opportunity by removing himself from the Shanghai/Hong Kong circuit. Oh yes, and he will have to give up his maid.

Any thoughts from those who’ve worked in these places? I am especially interested in this question because I might be making a similar choice soon. Although I have a closer connection to Taiwan, I’d be very tempted to try and up the HK salary and move there. It would terrify me to come back to Taiwan and risk a huge pay cut. In this guy’s case the Taiwanese operation thinks NT$200k is a fortune and he can’t get it up any higher. But it’s less than US$70k a year which is what I would have said is a benchmark figure for that role in Asia generally, looking at it from the point of a regional hiring manager. He doesn’t want expat terms as he has no kids.

It’s got me thinking though. I’d quite like to come back to Taiwan, but the pay is likely to be dreadful. Dammit.

I would say yes - I just moved to HK a few months ago on a very similar package and living here is more expensive, leaving me with less $$$ at the end of the day (keep in mind 5% each month goes to the mandatory MPF unless you can prove you are making contributions to a pension fund yourself). As well you get a much nicer & bigger place to stay for the same money in Taiwan. It is however more convenient in HK.
Beside the money the decision to move may also depend on the company you work for and the job itself, while my company in Taiwan has treated me good I do enjoy working for the new one more.

Deal breaker. At that pay scale they would be paying 25% in tax.

This would be the deal maker for me. Greater prospects down the road.

I think experience gained in Taiwan is translatable, so there really isn’t much of a threat of missing a China boom, as such. Particularly if this person has connections in Shanghai that can be maintained.

The irony of HK is I’ve never pulled as much money as I’m now on, but never felt quite as poor. A lot of that has to do with the cost and crappiness of housing. I refuse to fork out a large cut of my salary on rent, and buying into the residential property market here is for the exceedingly brave.

Added to this is my rather famous contempt for the local people, in which I include expats and local Cantos. It shocks me to realise that this February I’l have been in HK for five years, and yet, if I were to move and never return here again, I wouldn’t mind at all. In fact, I;d consider that a blessing.


+1. Always pick the road with the best future opportunities. I’m working on doing the exact same thing (i.e. relocating to Taiwan to advance the career. Damned tough to land an Engineering/PM job if you aren’t an EE/SE though). It certainly won’t be for the [current] pay, so if that’s his primary concern then don’t even think about it.

Can’t speak on HK but I found Shanghai damned expensive, so gut feeling would be a penny in disposable income from Shanghai is worth 2 cents in Taipei.

Useful answers cheers. Confirms what I thought. I found Shanghai much more expensive than I thought I would. If the deal were offered to me I’d take the Taiwan option. I’d love to do a study on equivalent salaries and disposable incomes for the three places.

I’ve lived in all 3 cities for varying lengths of time - only moved to Taipei a few months ago.

I find good food by far the cheapest in Taipei, you really can eat well every day and expect reasonable quality from even local places.

In terms of rent, again Taipei works out cheapest as far as I’m concerned for a quality western style serviced apartment in a central location.

Taxis generally work out cheapest in Shanghai (when you can catch them!) and I really do my best to avoid HK ones (crazy expensive!)

I find Taipei best for finding cheap, fairly decent casual men’s clothes, with HK a close second (a bit more expensive). I found it generally hard to find cheaper clothes in Shanghai, but I definitely recommend getting suits and shirts tailor-made there.

Other than price, there is the general lifestyle considerations. Hong Kong definitely has the most active “Western” expat nightlife scene, with Shanghai coming up pretty fast. Taipei really doesn’t have a hardcore expat scene from what I’ve seen, which has its pros (less stupid twats around and you spend less money going out) and cons (there is less going on).

In terms of missing the China boom, I definitely understand the feeling (there is a feeling of detachment), but in my particular role I try to attend industry events every few months either in HK or on the Mainland that keep me fairly well connected. I personally feel I’m actually getting more of a “Chinese” experience living in Taiwan though in comparison to HK and Shanghai - I speak Chinese more and feel the general environment of Taipei is relatively less westernised.

Anyway, just a few thoughts… I think Taipei may generally be overload/too much for someone to start with - it definitely helps I think for me having lived in the other two cities (as well as Guangzhou) first - but overall I’ve definitely found more disposable income (which I really should start saving :slight_smile: )


Taxi fares have just risen here in HK for short haul trips but lowered over a longer distance. My regular ride has jumped from HK$15 to HK$20.

One further consideration on comparative salaries is the incredibly stupid amount one can drop when going drunkenly ballistic. On this criteria, as I again managed to prove to myself on Friday night, HK wins hands down.


[quote=“Huang Guang Chen”]Taxi fares have just risen here in HK for short haul trips but lowered over a longer distance. My regular ride has jumped from HK$15 to HK$20.

One further consideration on comparative salaries is the incredibly stupid amount one can drop when going drunkenly ballistic. On this criteria, as I again managed to prove to myself on Friday night, HK wins hands down.


Yup. HK will always allow you to spend money like water.

Income tax and company tax (on profits) are very very low.
With several deductions, you end up paying just a small percentage.

I never managed to get a work permit in Taiwan and had to fly out every 30 days (at the company’s expense). I used this to go to HK which maintained my contacts here and am now back. I have also lived in all 3 cities and given an absolute free chioce, comparable salaries etc would pick Taiwan apart from the tax issue.

I’m not big on posting in online forums and I don’t have any insight into the finance/investment industry however I feel compelled to ask exactly what you do to command such an impressive income.

Several posts mention not being able to save money; I don’t understand how an individual can earn a high income in the finance/investment industy and then not have nous to actually save any money.

You mentioned your friend is a beer monster, he must be drinking all day everyday!

I would really like to know the average age of these people and finally how I can get a job and the salary to match in your company?


I would say yes - I just moved to HK a few months ago.[/quote]

Hey HGC, maybe it’s time for a Forumosa HK event. We can invite Rascal and (a) make fun of all things German; and (b) make fun of Fred, AC, and other notable Flob personalities.

Welcome to HK, Rascal! Enjoy the locals and expats (see HGC). Moi, I’d say the outdoor humidity mixed with indoor, unhealthy blasts of AC is more painful.

Oh, and Taipei, for the biz opps (future) and savings. plus, ask him where he’s gonna be happy, of the 3 choices.