China's wealth gap widening

Government efforts to tackle the rich-poor divide failing amid economic downturn.

    Rural workers earn, on average, less than one-third of those living in the cities [EPA]

    City residents have prospered since economic reforms were implemented 30 years ago, but many rural villagers have been left behind.

    Millions of rural migrants are out of work, and on Tuesday, more than 1,000 workers clashed with riot police in eastern China over unpaid wages.

    Civil unrest

    With a population of 1.3 billion, China has far more people than jobs to be filled. But the country's economic boom enabled  millions of farmers and their children to find work in factories and construction sites.

     China's leaders are struggling to bridge the rich-poor divide [GALLO/GETTY]
    However, declining demand for Chinese exports has forced thousands of factories to close and newly unemployed migrants to stream from coastal manufacturing regions back to their rural hometowns.

    Chinese officials have warned of protests and riots this year, as more workers are laid off and companies struggle to pay wages.

    Deteriorating purchasing power in the rural areas could also hinder efforts to boost domestic consumer spending to help compensate for declining exports - a crucial part of the government's strategy to prevent a recession.

    City dwellers earned an average annual income of $2,300 a year in 2008, Chen Xiwen, a senior rural planning official, reported at a recent conference in Beijing.

    The average rural income was about $690.

    Incomes in Shanghai and some other big cities are about a third higher than the national average.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    Survivor stories from Super Typhoon Haiyan

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    We Are Still Here: A Story from Native Alaska

    From Qatar to Alaska, a personal journey exploring what it means to belong when your culture is endangered.