Income gap not as big as earlier thought (2)

08:23, February 05, 2010      

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In the past 10 years, China's GDP tripled from 9.9 trillion yuan in 2000 to 33.53 trillion yuan last year, and the GDP per capital grew from 7,858 yuan to about 20,500 yuan, putting the country on track toward becoming the second-largest economy in the world.

Gao Huiqing, an official with the State Information Center's Economic Forecast Department, suggested that people's perception of the widening wealth gap might be misled by their thinking that the rich are getting richer.

"But, in fact, the income of the poor has to have grown faster than that of the rich," he said.

The OECD report also suggests that the gap is wider in China than in the United States and other developed countries, but narrower than that in other developing countries such as Vietnam.

Hong Lin, a Chongqing migrant worker who makes 2,000 yuan a month doing construction work, said he dreams of marrying a Vietnamese woman, as he claimed that he could be a rich man in that country, where the average monthly income is about 500 yuan, the Chongqing Evening New reported recently.

Despite the encouraging OECD figures and optimism among some experts over the narrowing gap, a vast number of people are still unhappy with their earnings.

The number of people living in poverty is around 40 million, according to China's poverty line of 1,196 yuan a year, and that number could jump to nearly 100 million based on the international standard of $2 a day set by the World Bank, according to Li Shi, a professor specializing in income inequality and poverty at Beijing Normal University.

Fei Long, a 28-year-old farmer in Jingyuan, a poverty-stricken county in northwest China's Gansu Province, told the Global Times that even though he works at a Jingyuan coalmine now, he still feels left out of the growing prosperity experienced by many other Chinese, especially those in cities.

"I can only make a little more than 10,000 yuan per year, but my boss can make an annual income of some 30 million yuan," he said.

Fei said that, beyond his monthly salary of about 1,000 yuan, he enjoys no endowment or medical insurance, and he is under constant pressure of losing his job because of competition among his fellow villagers.

The government has been trying to help the rural areas in recent years catch up with the industrial boom seen in cities, including the latest plan issued in January, to put more investment, subsi-dies, fiscal and policy support into vast rural areas.

Despite the efforts, China still faces growing difficulties in increasing farmers' incomes and narrowing the gap seen between workers in urban and rural areas.

Statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released last month showed that the per-capita disposable income of urban people was 17,175 yuan in 2009, up 8.8 percent from a year earlier, while the per-capita disposable income of rural residents stood at 5,153 yuan last year, and the growth rate was 0.6 percentage points lower than that of urban residents.

The income ratio between urban and rural residents was 3.33:1 last year, compared with a ratio of 3.31:1 in 2008.

"The abolition of the nearly 3,000-year-old agricultural tax, the establishment of an insurance network covering all rural areas and the pace of urbanization have helped boost farmers' income and narrow the gap," said Ding Yifan, a researcher at the State Council's Development Research Center.

But he said the government has to exert more effort in implementing policies.

Shen Jie, a researcher of psychological sociology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also suggested that the rich-poor gap can be found in every nation around the world, but what is more frightening is when poor people lose the hope of striving for a better life.

"The government should offer more resources to underprivileged people so they won't alienate themselves from society," Shen said.

Guo Qiang contributed to this story

Source:Global Times
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