I'm new in the workforce. I have been working as a designer for past one and half years. The problem is the city I live in doesn't have much opportunity (actually not any) in the profession and my first employer was a startup in my town. They paid me half of the minimum acceptable wage for designers in my country from the beginning. They said they were paying the same to everyone else and that is what they can afford. I also didn't push thinking this is the first opportunity and I will have experience at least because I didn't go to design school and so I have less experience to brag about regardless of my skill and knowledge of design. Later after talking to other employees, I got to know everyone was getting paid at least two or three times more than me.
I left the company last year because their business failed and at the end they were not able to pay salaries to employees. Now the problem is not a single company will offer me a reasonable salary. I did apply in other cities. They all are asking my Cost To Company in the previous organization and deciding an amount based upon that which is not even enough to sustain my life and pay bills, rent etc in another city. The latest was a company in the costliest city of my country (where the cost of life is 72% higher than my home city) offered me a reasonable amount but then changed it to an absurdly low amount after seeing my previous offer letter. Other companies I negotiated with are imposing ridiculous conditions to just pay the average minimum salary, regardless of which city they are based in, like work 65 hours a week and such. The problem is they all are offering reasonable amount to other person of my skillset and experience but offering me less from the beginning because they think I'm cheap labour.
I don't know if my approach is wrong... What should I do?
UPDATE: Employers are now asking to provide a mandatory form 16 (certificate from employer which says tax has been deducted on the mentioned salary). Thanks to my previous employer from the startup, I wasn't in the tax bracket. So the form was not needed. And I didn't get paid my salary of the last months because the employer went broke and unreachable later. Providing a tax-form is a distant dream. Anyways, I'm pretty sure I'm not legally bound to provide that sort of information in my country or under any democratic country's laws. But the employers are like asking with a gun on my head "provide that, or we don't accept your acceptance of the offer" (one literally said that).
The last company who lowered the offer, confirmed what my role would be in their company and the sum they are willing to offer during interviews. I also told during interviews that I was underpaid in my past company and it has very little to do with my skill. Upon hearing that, they repeatedly said "No problem, send us your documents. Will amount X will be reasonable for you?" I said "yes sure. But I would like to see the offer letter before I make any suggestion."
As I provided my documents after 3 rounds of interviews during a whole month, bam! They even changed my job position. Offered me a position lower in hierarchy and I didn't even apply for that. I applied, interviewed, and completed their assignment for a different position. Now they are saying I didn't state my expected ctc (well but you did!) and the responsibility is same just the name is different (so not true). It is like asking a clerk to do the manager's job for a clerk's salary. Is it even a legit thing to do anywhere in the world? This is just becoming a practical joke. I'm truly feeling harassed now.