The truth about an income survey

Updated: 2014-05-30 07:46

By Hu Zhan (China Daily)

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A recent survey of the "1980s generation" that indicates "Communist Party of China members are better paid than non-members" and "most senior managers have only a high school or bachelor's degree" has sparked a heated online debate. Since many netizens seem to have misinterpreted the findings of the survey, there is need for some clarification.

The Fudan Yangtze River Delta Social Transformation Survey (FYRST), conducted by the Institute of Social Research of Shanghai-based Fudan University since 2009, is aimed at carrying out a statistical study of people born between 1980 and 1989 in the Yangtze River Delta region, which includes Shanghai, and Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. This region accounts for only 1 percent of China's total area and 8 percent of its population. But by contributing 20 percent of the national economic aggregate, it has become China's largest economic zone where numerous social and economic changes have occurred.

The FYRST survey is the first all-round study focusing on a specific age group in the region. Being the first generation of "one child" families in China and having grown up with the reform and opening-up, the "1980s generation" is different from the 1970s as well as the 1990s generations, yet it serves as a link between the two. The FYRST survey covers various aspects - such as family life, marriage and employment - of this generation in the Yangtze River Delta region. Therefore, its findings are not necessarily representative of the rest of China, although they can be used as indicators for studying the social changes in the country.

For starters, what most institutes for social science research seek to unveil in a survey is the relevance rather than causality of research elements. In other words, from the highlighted income difference between a Party member and non-Party member in the survey, one can only assume that political status is related to income level to some extent; the former does not decide the latter, or vice-versa.

Statistically speaking, the number of interviewed Party members is only 11 percent of the survey's total sample, meaning 89 percent of those surveyed are non-Party members, with their respective average annual income being 86,000 yuan ($13,807) and 57,000 yuan. Going by the book, it would be fair to say that Party members are better paid than non-Party members.

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