Banter and sarcasm erupted in the wake of a National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report Wednesday saying the average pre-tax wage per capita for urban employees grew 12.9 percent, year-on-year, to 14,638 yuan (2,142.43 U.S. dollars) in the first half of this year.
The seemingly inspiring and encouraging news did not draw much applause, but a hail of criticism from the public, with many being skeptical of the figures' credibility. The term: "I've been given a raise," referring to the furor over the NBS's statistics, has become increasingly popular among China's mass of Internet users.
On the popular online forum tianya.cn, a commentary read, "The statistics released by the NBS are miraculous, as the increase managed to surpass the GDP growth of 7.9 percent registered in the second quarter against a backdrop of the global financial crisis."
However, the poster noted, most people's pockets remain shallow.
Di Huang, a researcher at the Institute for Labor and Wage Studies of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, told the National Business Daily that the number of urban employees covered by the NBS was 110 million, while the exact number is 410 million.
Employees of private enterprises and migrant workers are not covered, he noted, adding that the statistical methods are not able to mirror the average income of the whole society.
Cheng Zilin, director of the NBS Policies and Regulations Division, denied during an interview with Xinhua that there were irregularities in the statistics.
Official statistics are faced with a crisis of credit and it is urgent to reestablish the public's trust in and reliance on the statistics, Xinhua said.
A poll on tom.com showed as many as 88 percent of 2,816 respondents believed it is reasonable to doubt the income rise announced by the NBS.
According to the NBS, the income figures were calculated from the wages or salaries of staff and workers in the cities' government departments, state-owned or collectively-owned companies. The subjects also include companies owned by foreign investors or those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. Employees of privately owned small businesses were not included.
The public's doubt stemmed from NBS's questionable statistical methods and its sample-chosen methods, experts say.
Zhao Lipeng, a senior advisor of salary statistics at zhaopin.com, one of China's largest human resources service providers, said the NBS statistics go against the reality of many low-income earners.
"People from mega cities such as Beijing and Shanghai might view the data as more normal than those from second-tier cities," he said.
"Most samples are chosen from state-owned companies, or government institutions and their affiliated units, because data on their income is easier to collect," Zhao said. "While the income data of private companies is relatively harder to get."
In May, the NBS sparked fierce discussions among Chinese online commentators, as it announced the average income for urban employees in the first quarter of 2009 as a promising 7,399 yuan (1,080 dollars).
(An Baijie contributed to this story)