According to US Census Data in 2014, the average annual salary (exclusive of bonus and benefits) for a Purchasing Manager is USD 90,558. Their Chinese counterpart earns less than a 1/3 of that amount.
A US-based manager with even basic Asian language skills and Asian sourcing experience will command an even hirer salary. Additionally, a team of managers and support staff will need to be hired, trained and supervised if there is a desire to have the in-house resources needed to manage an international supply chain.
Spending time in Asia at the factory is almost a pre-requisite for success, but the cost of sending staff to Asia on multiple business trips can be cost prohibitive. The figures above are for direct salary only. All in cost to the American company to hire staff in the USA is significantly higher after bonus, overheads, mandatory benefits and other in-direct costs are calculated.
According to Fiducia in their report on HR costs in China for 2014, the average salary across all industries in the Guangdong providence is 4200 RMB per month. Even after adding bonus, mandatory benefits, dorm/housing and meal allowance, the direct labor is still under 15,000 USD per year.
That number may sound very attractive but know that the “average person” didn’t attend university, doesn’t speak English and has very little international trade experience. A review of the internet job forums in China will show that a Chinese manager with a university degree and 5 years’ experience in general sourcing or trading can earn around 12,000 RMB per month in a major Chinese city. Candidates with specialized skills can earn much more.
Even at around $30,000 a year for an experienced Sr. Chinese manager, the cost is still a fraction of the funds needed to engage professional staff in a developed economy like N. America, EU and Australia/NZ.
The advantages of outsourcing Supply Chain Management to a lower cost country is two-fold:
Significantly reduced HR costs
Physical proximity to supply base
So why isn’t everybody opening an international purchasing office in Asia?
Almost all small-medium sized firms and even the majority of large buyers don’t actually set up their own office in China because hiring and managing a team in China is no easy task from a culture, administrative, legal, linguistic and economic point of view.
For those reasons, China-based agents are often engaged and there has been an explosion in the number of China sourcing agencies over the past 10 year. Unfortunately, there is a lack of professionalism, transparency and experience among these China based agents. Far too much overpromising and under-delivery.
A Chinese or Foreign owned sourcing agency will charge between 3% and 15% of the PO value to perform various services at various levels of (un) professionalism. These agents often receive hidden kickbacks from the factory. As a result, the so-called “buyer’s representative” is actually working for the factory!
Related content: Visit our FAQ page to see what is really happening if your agent offers to do the sourcing for free