The Chinese Dream in surveys: a happy middle class

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 7:54am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 7:54am

A majority of Chinese consider themselves belonging to the country’s middle class and link happiness to material possessions, surveys show.

Three in five working-age Chinese consider themselves to be middle class, according to a survey by the Centre for Social Survey at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University.

One in three, or 33.6 per cent, consider themselves to be lower class and 7.2 per cent consider themselves to be upper class, the survey found.

The survey queried more than 10 thousand households and 16 thousand individuals in 30 administrative divisions. A member of staff at the centre said they conducted a similar survey for the first time last year, but he declined to share its findings.

It shows notable differences in self-perception compared to a similar survey conducted by Pew Research last year in the US. While those who see themselves as lower class make up about a third of both countries’ populations, 10 percentage points more Americans than Chinese, 17 per cent, consider themselves upper class.

Not as many people actually belong to China’s middle class. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2010 estimated China’s middle class to stand at 157 million people in 2010.

The survey also invited respondents to rate their happiness on a scale between one and six, with six being the happiest. Some 45 per cent ticked the highest two levels of happiness, only 7.2 per cent chose the lowest two options.

Happiness is more tied to material possession in China than anywhere else, another global survey by Ipsos, published last week, found. Globally, 34 per cent of 16,000 people across 20 countries said they measured their success by the things they owned.

In China, the percentage was more than double the global average and stood at 71 per cent.

Two out of three Chinese respondents said they felt “under a lot of pressure to be successful and make money”, more than in any other surveyed country.