For Zhou Jing, May 1 was traditionally the first day of a week-long holiday. As the head of an assembly line at a metalworks factory on the outskirts of Beijing for 20 years, he would usually spend the time off with his wife and 25-year-old son. But yesterday was different. Instead of lounging around, Mr Zhou, 50, was frantically driving his taxi around Beijing looking for customers. 'The plant where I worked was shut down last year and for 20 years of loyalty I got only 20,000 yuan [HK$18,800] - that's all,' said Mr Zhou, who started driving the taxi several months ago to help his family get by. 'How can I retire on 20,000 yuan? Not only that, but I'm having a hard time making ends meet these days. Sars is killing my business. There are no tourists in Beijing.' Labour Day was a sad occasion for Mr Zhou and millions of workers around the nation. Although China has made great economic progress in recent years, many residents have been left behind in the mainland's dash to get rich. 'I earned 1,500 yuan a month at the factory, but I got a lot of benefits and a lot of time off,' said Mr Zhou. 'Now I'm lucky if I earn 1,500 a month but I have to drive 12 hours a day, seven days a week.' Economists say China is facing a major crisis in terms of a yawning income gap. Although the savings rate is rising rapidly, there is growing evidence that the wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a few. 'In China, we do not have a real market economy,' economist Wu Jinglian said recently. 'There is no such thing as equal opportunities in the access to capital or resources. Some people are getting so rich that they can afford to buy a Boeing 747 to play with while most people - even in the urban areas - are having a hard time making ends meet.' According to a recent study by The Asian Banker, a Singapore-based financial research house, mainland China has the highest concentration of wealth in Asia: 0.65 per cent of the population controls 65 per cent of the nation's 10 trillion yuan in savings. Ominous signs are beginning to appear on the horizon. Figures released by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security show there were about 7.75 million unemployed workers in the urban areas at the end of March, a 0.4 per cent rise over the same period last year. With the impact of Sars and its deep economic repercussions, unemployment could rise further in the months ahead. Han Dongfang, a prominent Hong Kong-based activist for workers rights in China, said he was worried that mainland workers were falling irreversibly behind in the nation's march to seek wealth. 'Deng Xiaoping said 20 years ago: 'Let a small group of people get rich first and then others will follow',' he said.'Well, the first part of what Deng said has come true. A small number of people have gotten very rich. But it is the second part - the 'others' - they still are poor and are falling behind.'