Text: | Print|

China's rich-poor divide soaring

2014-07-30 15:00 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Si Huan

An expanding disparity between rich and poor is the main revelation in the latest version of the "China Development Report of People's Well-Being," released over the weekend by the Institute of Social Science Survey of Peking University.

The report considered family assets, consumption habits, medical expenses, housing and self-employment, and added a subjective view of happiness.

The report, which used data from 2012, reflects the gains and losses of Chinese individuals and families under the nation's rapidly changing economic and social development.

The results show that the top 1 percent of Chinese families own more than one-third of total family assets in the country, and that the disparity is growing rapidly. Conversely, the bottom 25 percent in China own just 1 percent of total family assets.

In 1995, China's Gini coefficient — a widely used measure of a country's inequality — was 0.45. That grew to 0.55 in 2002. In 2012, it had soared to 0.73. The higher the number, the more unequal the distribution of wealth. A reading of 1.0 would mean one person owns 100 percent of a nation's wealth.

Family assets affect happiness

The report indicates that assets and income greatly influence a family's overall happiness toward life, with the influence on women stronger than that is on men.

Professor Xie Yu, the report's author, says it reveals a nation lacking balance between its urban and rural residents.

The economic inequality poses a series of social problems that are at the root of social conflicts, he says, adding that more concern and research are needed to avoid a vicious circle that continues the trend.

The inequality in family assets is more pronounced than the inequality in income, and the dramatic difference between the city and countryside is a critical reason for such inequality.

Interestingly, the report revealed that the assets of families in the middle are growing fastest, while growth is slow for families at both the low and high ends.

Different consuming modes

Based on the report, the consumer habits of Chinese families can be divided into five categories: poor, ant, snail, stable and indulgence.

Poor families often are plagued not only by poverty but also by disease, and, as a group, spend the highest percentage of their incomes for medical expenses. Of the five groupings, they spend the lowest percentage of their incomes on consumer products.

The consuming ability of those in the "ant" category is also quite slow, similar to laborious ants and just a step ahead of the poor.

Things are only slightly better for those in the "snail" category, which refers to families with heavy financial pressures. Although the snails can spend some money, they aren't able to spend large sums on their daily life, entertainment or luxury items. Most of their money goes to mortgage, education and medical expenses.

The report put middle-class families in the stable category. Their spending on consumer products is higher than the national average, while their medical and housing spending is lower than the average.

The indulgence category refers to families that enjoy a high-quality material life. In terms of percentage of income, their expenses on education and entertainment are much higher than the other categories, but are fairly low on medical care.

Overall, the report paints a picture of households going in opposite directions: The poor, ants and snails are heavily pressed just to pay bills for medical care, education and housing and have little left over for food and other expenses. That leaves the stable and indulgence families able to enjoy a comfortable or even affluent material life.

Comments (0)
Most popular in 24h
  Archived Content
Media partners:

Copyright ©1999-2018 Chinanews.com. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.