There is a reason that when the topic of racism in China comes up, many Chinese think of the preferential treatment foreigners sometimes receive, rather than anything else. (including famous lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, who told us “Chinese law gives foreigners all sorts of special privileges” when we contacted him for this post). In reading about the KaiEn English fiasco, I found a pretty good example.
The short version of what seems like a rather over-dramatized story is that the heads of a Shanghai English school ran out of money and left the school more or less overnight, leaving a trail of unpaid employees and untaught students who had already paid tuitions in their wake. I have absolutely no interest in entering into the speculation about whose fault this is, or how (if at all) it’s connected to ChinesePod. I did, however, find this sentence from the Shanghai Daily rather interesting:
Foreign teachers of KaiEn English Training Center, which closed suddenly earlier this week, will receive 20 to 30 percent of their lost salary tomorrow as the first batch of life aid, the Chinese partner of the joint institution announced today.
Chinese staff and students were told to wait until the financial situation of the school was figured out.
Foreign teachers said that they are owed at least 2 months of salary ranging from 12,000 yaun to 40,000 yuan, even higher.
Chinese teachers’ salaries were delayed even longer on average, though their monthly wage is lower.
Obviously, everyone involved deserves to be paid — in full — for the work that they did, but honestly examining the situation, wouldn’t it make more sense to pay the Chinese teachers before the foreigners? After all, the foreigners were making more money. If KaiEn’s payment works like many of the English schools in China, foreign staff were probably payed somewhere between two to six times the salary of the Chinese staff (and they probably worked fewer hours than the Chinese staff, too). Aren’t the foreign teachers thus more likely to be able to hold out for a bit longer without salary than the Chinese staff who were being paid less? And frankly, aren’t they going to have an easier time finding other work as an English teacher than the Chinese staff probably are?
Now, to be fair, I have no special knowledge about the workings of KaiEn English specifically, nor do I know anyone who worked there personally. Given that, perhaps it’s best to put the question to you: wouldn’t it have made more sense to pay the Chinese staff first, or to pay everyone a smaller amount at the same time? Why were the foreigners paid first?