I am a Foreigner living in ChengDu, and I have been teaching English for over three years now. Anyone who doesn't know -- LISTEN UP!! I was getting 3,000 Yuan per month when I first arrived and didn't know Jack about contracts. I thought I was getting a pretty good deal. Most first year teachers think this way. Now, I get no less than 5,500 Yuan per month for a 12 hour work week plus all the other benefits (ex. air travel -- 10,000 Yuan per year).
Don't let their griping and complaining about how much foreigners get paid versus what they get paid dissuade YOU from getting paid. Feel free to e-mail me and ask for my "Bargaining Points" as well as a sample contract from the school I am now working at. The "Bargaining Points" is written in MS Word Format so I can attach it and send it to you, or you can simply as me to copy them to a reply -- THEY include all the things you should watch out for -- (like the fact that no contract I ever heard of inludes a "Personal Income Tax Benefit" where the school pays for taxes on income over 4,000 Yuan per month. Get caught with your pants down on this one and just smile as wide as you can while you bend over.)
There are several more interesting articles about Teaching and Living in China at this link -----> http://www.aacircle.com.au/forums/teaching-living-china/
The only way the system will change is if everyone (meaning all foreigners) starts demanding the same thing and starts saying "NO" to the ridiculously low offers out there.
The best scenario for anyone wanting to work in China is to get the most money you can for the least hours, whatever that might turn out to be, and then to farm yourself out hourly to other schools. If you don't do it yourself, the schools will find a way to do it for you and in a way that they get the majority of the profits. I was doing this for 125 Yuan per hour when I found out that here in ChengDu, 175 Yuan per hour is the norm. Start at 200 and let them bargain you down to 175. In all, my situation has turned out to be very profitable. I live in a 225 sq meter apt. and pay all my own bills while living off campus. Last month I made 12,300 Yuan working for three different schools and doing part-time tutoring work. Part of it was due to my availability to other schools on an hourly basis because of the low hours of my original contract.
This level of involvment also requires a more experienced indivdual who really knows their city and has made some-few relationships to be able to make it work out properly to his/her own advantage without gaining the ire of the wrong people. It is a little risky at first, but once things are done properly in the Chinese way it is rather simpler than it seems.
MOST IMPORTANT IS TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION!! HELPING OTHERS HELPS YOURSELF!! If you have ANY questions at ANY time, feel free to e-mail me -- I'd be all too happy to help.
As I said, just e-mail me and ask for "A copy of the MS Word documents which contain the Negotiating Points and the most recent contract" which I signed to begin the spring semester of 2006. Please note, when you read this, that the lines in BOLD text were the changes I made to the original contract. Sometimes I overwrote what they had, other times I added. Other sections were entirely my own additions resulting in the contract lengthening somewhat. In all, there are still some things I feel like I should have added - like getting paid vacations for foreign holidays (paid leave for Christmas and Thanksgiving for example) - but will have to remember to add those later in the next contract. These are not mentioned in my original Negotiating Points, but then again, living in China and not getting paid leave for those two holidays is not THAT big a deal anyway.
One last piece of advice -- Being able to make such changes usually requires a face-to-face, so don't expect too much if you're bargaining over the internet or the phone. So, that said, you can sign whatever contract you want, but make sure it has a clause that allows you to resign with two weeks or even one month of notice. When you get here, shop around!! You have a contract, so relax and start getting tough with schools once you're here. You'll be surprised at what you can find late in the game.
Basically it works out like this. Schools need teachers, so you sign with one just to get yourself over here -- and then once you are here you try to find a more desperate school that is willing to pay more to put a foreign face in the classroom. (This is very easy because there really aren't enough teachers to go around - but schools don't really know who will and won't be here until the semester starts, once the semester starts and they have no foreign teachers they are FAR more flexible with their contracts.)
You now have two options: 1) Put in your notice and leave for the other school OR 2) Inform the school of your intention to leave if they "can't" (won't is more like it) match the other offer. If you leave, make sure you leave politely explaining it is just in your best interest, but that you'd be willing to "fill in" until they can find another teacher. Your "fill-in" per hour rate is anything from 125 - 200 Yuan per hour depending on how much they think of you. They'll scramble to find another foreginer - if you can recommend another foreigner who you've "educated" about contracts all the better. If that foreigner happens to be as educated as you and demands more money to change schools, the whole system WILL begin to change.
Most of all, say "No" quickly to low offers, explaining to them that you are saying no because their offer is so low. The more schools start to hear the word "no" and the reason "offer is too low to start with" then they'll be more motivated to either change the original offer, or get more flexible. Believe me, they will find the money if they really want the teacher -- so make sure you're getting P A I D.