This study contributes to an important, but under-researched, topic on China by empirically examining the theory of compensating wage differentials for occupational risks in urban labour markets. Drawing on two datasets – one national for all workers and one from the Pearl River Delta for migrant workers – we examine the relationship between wages and occupational risks, and estimate the risk premium for health hazards. The results show that having risky jobs, especially those associated with dust, has a significant negative effect on hourly wages. The negative risk premium accounts for approximately 10% of all workers’ hourly wage in safe jobs using the national dataset and 1.8% of migrant workers’ hourly wage in safe jobs in the Pearl River Delta. With the national data, males, migrant workers and manual workers incur a wage penalty for exposure to dust, chemical substances, biological hazards and other health hazards. Only urban locals earn a significantly positive wage premium for exposure to chemical substances. We offer several explanations for the negative wage premium in the context of China’s urban labour market.