Quality of life is lowest in west

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 June, 2011, 12:00am


The yawning regional gap in economic growth is highlighted by a new development index of people's well-being that puts the western provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan and Gansu at the bottom.

The well-being index, said to be the first of its kind on the mainland, was developed by researchers at Beijing Normal University. It aims to offer insight into a region's quality of life, level of public service and social governance by comparing more than a dozen parameters, including income, education, infrastructure and soundness of social security.

While Beijing and the eastern affluent province of Jiangsu ranked first and fourth with 0.739 and 0.524 respectively, Guizhou finished at the bottom with 0.2. The maximum possible score is one.

The index compared all 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. The study findings are another reminder of the rising inequality in wealth distribution after years of economic success. The Communist Party fears this could threaten social stability and its grip on power.

The index also sounds the alarm at the rising income gaps between urban and rural areas and the rich and poor.

If grey income- a broad category of income ranging from non-salary benefits to bribes for officials- is considered, urban residents earn nearly five times the income of rural residents, including migrant workers, the researchers say. The officials' multiple is 3.3 times rural earnings.

Professor Niu Fengrui, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Urban Development and Environment, said narrowing the income gap was a key target for improving people's overall well-being, 'but loud thunder has induced few raindrops in the reform of income distribution in recent years'.

Niu said livelihood improvement could not be sustained without strengthening governance because corruption would hinder the effort.

The report also looked at the challenges in improving quality of life, particularly for migrants. Thousands of angry migrant workers protested in Zengcheng, Guangzhou, last week over alleged mistreatment of a pregnant migrant from Sichuan. Outlook Weekly, a Communist Party mouthpiece, warned that disparities in income and welfare, combined with discrimination, had bred resentment among migrants. It called for them to be treated fairly.