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Gini coefficient release highlights China's resolve to bridge wealth gap

By Yang Lina (Xinhua)

16:00, January 21, 2013

Ma Jiantang (C), director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), gives an introduction on China's national economic situation of 2012 at a press conference in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 18, 2013. China's State Council here held a press conference to release China's national economic situation of 2012 on Friday. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

BEIJING, Jan. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- China's first release of the Gini coefficient for the past decade demonstrated the government’s resolve to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.

The Gini coefficient, a widely used measure of economic inequality, reached 0.474 in China in 2012, higher than the warning level of 0.4 set by the United Nations, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The rich-poor index has been retreated gradually since hitting a peak of 0.491 in 2008, dropping to 0.49 in 2009, 0.481 in 2010 and 0.477 in 2011, Ma Jiantang, director of the NBS, told a press conference Friday.

The index stood at 0.479 in 2003, 0.473 in 2004, 0.485 in 2005, 0.487 in 2006 and 0.484 in 2007.

The latest release marked the first time China announced an official broad-based Gini coefficient since 2000.


Despite year-by-year retreat, the Gini coefficient has stayed at a relatively high level of between 0.47 and 0.49 during the past decade. "The statistics highlighted the urgency for our country to speed up the income distribution reforms to narrow the wealth gap," Ma said.

An index reading between 0.3 and 0.4 means the rich-poor gap is relatively reasonable, according to an UN organization.

The NBS has not released the Gini coefficient for the entire country in the past due to a lack of unified survey standards in rural and urban areas.

Last December, the NBS adopted unified statistical standards and indicators for collecting data from urban and rural residents, and calculated the Gini coefficient for 2012.

The bureau also adjusted historical data based on the new standards and came up with the coefficients for 2003 to 2011, the official added.

The average income of urban residents is about three times that of rural people. While in urban areas, the average income of high-income group is about four times that of the low-income group, according to Ma.

The average per capita disposable income of urban residents in 2012 was 24,565 yuan, while the average per capita net income of rural residents was 7,917 yuan, with the income ratio reaching 3:1, according to the NBS.

After dividing the urban residents into five groups according to their incomes, the average income of the highest-earning group reached 51,456 yuan, almost five times that of the lowest-earning group with the average income of 10,354 yuan.

"China's Gini coefficient is relatively high compared with the warning level of 0.4, reflecting the severity of the yawning wealth gap," said Wang Jun, an economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, an elite think tank in Beijing.

"Generally speaking, efforts should be redoubled to carry out reforms so as to narrow the rich-poor gap and prevent the country stepping into the 'middle-income trap'", he added.

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