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China 'world's most financially secure country'

By ZHENG YANGPENG  (China Daily)

09:03, May 21, 2013

China has emerged as the most financially secure country in an index jointly launched by PICC Property and Casualty Co Ltd, the largest non-life insurance company in the Chinese mainland, and Genworth Financial Inc, a Fortune 500 insurance holding company.

The report surveyed 13,000 households in 14 European countries, and five Latin American countries and China. China scored 78 out of 100, the highest score of any country and the highest since the index was launched in 2007.

Only 3 percent of Chinese households are financially vulnerable, whereas the same figure for Germany is 22 percent and 26 percent for France, according to the report.

Of more than 1,000 households surveyed in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Wuhan, only 1 percent said their financial situation will worsen over the next 12 months. Only 3 percent believed they were financially vulnerable, while 97 percent said that they have rarely experienced financial problems or had a positive outlook for the future.

Henry Chang, general manager of Genworth Consulting Services (Beijing) Ltd, said: "While Chinese households are very positive about their financial situations, they do have a number of short-term to medium-term concerns regarding job security, credit viability and income stream."

Digging deeper into the survey's underlying results, some 39 percent said they had seen their total household income fall due to several factors. Forty-eight percent reported it was due to a drop in level of income, 20 percent reported it was due to stopping work for health reasons, and 12 percent said it was due to job loss.

Chang said PICC and Genworth planned to fill this gap with their products. He also noted that a major reason for China's high savings ratio is the lack of social security coverage.

The top concern for Chinese respondents in terms of their financial security, according to the survey, was their income from work, followed by cost of living and social security. By contrast, the top concern for European respondents in terms of their financial security was the cost of living, then came income from work and savings levels.

Kevin Fleming, Genworth's vice-president for new markets, said that in southern Europe where countries were hit hardest by the sovereign debt crisis, people were more likely to link their financial security with the wider economy, whereas in China people were much less concerned with the wider economy.

Fleming noted that 76 percent of Chinese respondents said they have as much in savings as they receive in income every month.

Northern Europe was still the most financially secure region in Europe, according to the report, with Norway and Sweden ranked just after China. Three percent of respondents in Norway and 5 percent in Sweden reported feeling financially vulnerable.

An earlier report by the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics found that the average asset of a Chinese household is 1.21 million yuan ($195,000), and their average liability is 62,600 yuan.

The majority of Chinese household assets were in property. PICC and Genworth's report cautioned that Chinese households were too focused on property investments, and said their investment portfolio should be diversified.

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