Unemployed men look for work outside a train station in northern Shanxi province. (Photo/CNS)
China's wealth gap has widened to a rare and alarming level, according to a report released Sunday by the Survey and Research Centre for China Household Finance, an academic organization founded by Chengdu's Southwestern University of Finance and the Institute of Financial Research at the People's Bank of China.
The report, which surveyed 8,438 households and 29,500 individuals, estimated China's 2010 Gini coefficient at 0.61, significantly above the global average of 0.44 and 50% above the "risk level" for social unrest, reported the Beijing Times reported. When split into more specific categories, the figure was slightly lower at 0.56 for urban households and 0.60 for rural households.
The Gini coefficient is a key measure of income and wealth distribution. A coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality, in which every person has the same income, while a coefficient of 1 expresses maximum inequality wherein one person holds all the income.
The Chinese government has not published official Gini coefficient figures since 2000, when it was estimated to be 0.412.
The head of the research center, Gan Li, said at a report briefing in Beijing that the extent of China's inequality is rare, but a high Gini coefficient is usually the natural symptom of a rapidly developing economy. In the short term, the wealth gap can be somewhat bridged by government income redistribution policies, but in the long run, improvements in overall education levels are necessary, he said.
The report further revealed China's urban unemployment rate to be 8.05% as of July 2012, half a percentage point higher than the same time last year. Based on official government statistics from 2010, China has an urban work force of 346.2 million people, putting the current number of unemployed urban workers at roughly 29 million people.
China's aging population and university graduates are being hit particularly hard, with the 51-55 and 21-25 age groups both reporting unemployment rates of 16.4%.
Pan Jiancheng, from the National Bureau of Statistics' China Economic Monitoring and Analysis Centre, also called for improving national education standards to boost employment prospects and income, adding that it will also speed up the transformation of China's economy.
Gan Li 甘犁
Pan Jiancheng 潘建成