Low pay sends judges packing

Updated: 2015-02-06 11:28

By Li Yang in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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Low pay sends judges packing

Reporters gather outside the No 1 intermediate court in Shanghai. A heavy workload and low income are the main reasons why judges quit their jobs. [Photo by Gao Erqiang / China Daily]

Shanghai needs to raise the salary of judges to stop so many from quitting, said a member of the city's top political advisory body.

In the past five years, nearly 500 judges have quit, most of them between 40 and 50 years old, and the trend shows little abatement.

"Judge is a 'lonely' profession, and the last guarantee of legal fairness," said Qiu Suo, a member of Shanghai people's political consultative conference and a lawyer, at an annual meeting of the conference. "This profession deserves respect from the society and a decent income."

Shanghai's judges are paid by the municipal government and their pay is based on civil service standards. "The judges should be paid at least 1.5 times that of the civil servants on average to ensure they are not lured by bribes and have a comfortable life," Qiu suggested.

China's central government just raised civil servants' salaries to help them pay for the newly added pension insurance. Previously, they didn't have to pay for their own pension insurance.

Civil servants have the best in housing, medical care and schooling for their children, and even have opportunities to seek illegal profits from their power. That's why few officials quit their jobs even if their salaries have not surged for years. But judges do not have so much invisible income.

In Shanghai, each judge presided over an average of 131 cases in 2013, 2.25 times the national average, and the work load rose to 156 cases last year.

Qiu Suo said recruitment of middle-aged judges is popular among legal and financial agencies. Their income may rise several times if they change jobs. "It takes many years to cultivate a good judge out of many candidates, and it is really a big pity that the court loses them so easily," Qiu said. "They deserve a better payment given their heavy workload, responsibility and important role in social life."

Qiu's research shows judges' salaries in the United States are about 5 times to 6.5 times higher than the average income of common civil servants, and 6.5 to 13 times higher in the UK.