Mainland's income gap among Asia's highest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 August, 2007, 12:00am

The mainland has the highest income inequality of any developing country in Asia after conflict-riven Nepal, the Asian Development Bank said in a report released yesterday.

The relative inequality was threatening to reach Latin American levels, the ADB warned in Inequality in Asia: Key Indicators 2007, which compared 22 developing Asian countries.

Widening disparities in standards of living were common across the continent and threatened both growth and social cohesion, the report said.

The mainland's Gini coefficient reached 0.473 at the end of 2004, up from 0.407 in 1993. A measurement of 0.4 on the Gini scale - which ranges from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality) - indicates an alarming social wealth gap, while scores in the high 0.40s may represent a threat to social stability.

In comparison, the Gini coefficient in India rose from 0.329 to 0.362 over the same period.

Hong Kong, which was not covered by the ADB report, had a Gini score of 0.5 last year, the Census and Statistics Department said in June.

Inequality on the mainland has increased since 2004 as urban growth continued to outpace rural growth over the past two years. The China Youth Daily recently estimated the mainland's Gini score at 0.496, despite the central government's attempts to produce 'balanced growth' and a 'harmonious society'.

However, ADB chief economist Ifzal Ali praised the central government yesterday.

'China's stellar growth rates have filtered down to meet the lives of the bottom 20 per cent better than in other Asian countries,' he said.