Index shows wealth gap at alarming level

Updated: 2013-01-19 09:27

By Wei Tian in Boao, Hainan (China Daily)

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Experts suggest social equality has been sacrificed for growth

An index that monitors the gap between the rich and poor has reached what experts consider an alarming level in China.

The Gini coefficient hit 0.474 in China in 2012, higher than the warning level of 0.4 set by the United Nations, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday.

Index shows wealth gap at alarming level

A beggar, with a feather duster in hand, loiters among heavy traffic in Beijing, offering "cleaning services" in exchange for money. China's miraculous economic growth in past decades has left an increasing number of people behind financially. Mao Yanzheng / China Daily 

But there are still doubts whether the index has accurately reflected the widening social disparity in the country.

According to data provided by the bureau, China's Gini coefficient has been retreating gradually from a peak level of 0.491 in 2008, Ma Jiantang, China's top statistics official, told a press conference in Beijing.

The Gini coefficient ranges from 0, which represents perfect equality, to 1, for absolute inequality.

The index stood at 0.473 in 2004, but after the financial crisis in 2008, it gradually dropped from its peak of 0.491 that year "as the government took measures to bring benefits for its people", Ma said.

"But China's Gini coefficient, between 0.47 and 0.49 during the past decade, was still relatively high, indicating the country must accelerate its income distribution reform to narrow the rich-poor gap," he said.

The Gini coefficient provided by the NBS presented a similar trend to that provided by the World Bank, but was much lower than a result from a private survey by Chengdu's Southwestern University of Finance and Economics published last December, which put the country's Gini coefficient at 0.61 in 2010, which prompted a huge reaction among netizens.

Commenting on the disparity, Ma said both official data and private surveys are "part of the statistics system, and serious private surveys should be an important and good supplement to government data".

He said the official figure was calculated using a new approach to review statistics tracked back to 2003.

Index shows wealth gap at alarming level
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