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An Unhappy Middle in the Middle Kingdom

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China has the world's largest number of billionaires and 700 million peasants. In between is a surprisingly thin and unhappy middle class, which poses a big social and economic challenge.

中国有全世界数量最多的亿万富翁,还有七亿农民。夹在两者之间的,是薄薄的一层中产,而且他们还相当不高兴。这对中国未来经济和社会发展都是一个挑战。

       

Among the 3,000 delegates of the 2013 National People's Congress, the percentage of blue-collar workers and peasants has risen to 13% from 8% in 2012. The number of migrant workers has jumped to 30 from just three last year. Wealthy Chinese continue to be well represented. China's richest man, Zong Qinhou, is attending the annual powwow for the 11th time.       

在3,000来位全国人大代表中,工人和农民的比例从2012年的8%上升到了今年了13%。农民工代表的数量更是从去年的3位上升到今年的30位左右。富裕的阶层继续获得良好的代表,比如中国首富宗庆后已经是第11次参加全国人民代表大会了。

       

The squeezed middle class deserves more love. As many as 51% of Chinese working professionals suffered from some level of depression, the Ministry of Health said in 2011. They blame pressure from a rapidly changing society, increased competition, long work hours and high property prices.       

中国被挤压的中产阶级需要更多的关爱。卫生部2011年曾经引用数据说,有高达51%的中国人患有不同程度的抑郁。原因在于快速变化的社会、日益激烈的竞争、长工作时间还有高房价。


       

'The biggest risk in the world is China's middle class not being happy,' said Shaun Rein, the managing director of China Market Research, a consulting firm. 'They are the most pessimistic group in the world.' 'The truly rich can afford to live anywhere, and the poor get double-digit wage increases every year,' Mr. Rein, author of the book 'End of Cheap China,' said. 'China's middle class has hopes to own a car and home and be rich one day. But as their salary growth slows, they realize they will never be able to get there.'        

“中国现在最大的问题是中产阶级不高兴,他们是全世界最悲观的一群中产,”咨询机构CMR的创始者和总经理,《廉价中国的结束》一书作者Shaun Rein说,“ 真正的有钱人可以在任何他们想要的地方生活,而底层人民每年会得到两位数的收入增长。中国的中产阶级希望能够买车买房,有一天成为富人。但随着他们的收入增长放缓,他们意识到自己可能永远也达不到那个目标。”

       

The Chinese government has made it a priority to help migrant workers. In 2012, 25 provinces raised minimum wages by an average of 20%, official data show. But wage increases for managers at multinationals, private and state-owned companies have slowed or stalled.       

中国政府已经把帮助农民工作为一个优先任务。2012年,官方数据显示中国25个城市最低工资平均提高了20%。但近年来,跨国企业、国有和私营企业的工资涨幅开始放缓,甚至停滞。


       

At present, the great majority of the Chinese are working class, living in households with annual disposable income of between $6,000 and $16,000, just about enough to cover basic needs, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The middle class, with annual disposable income of between $16,000 and $34,000, make up only 6% of the urban population. A tiny group of upper-middle-class to rich consumers, whose disposable income exceeds $34,000, comprises only 2% of the urban population.       

据麦肯锡调查,目前来看,中国绝大多数人不过是工薪
阶层,每年可支配收入在37,000元 到106,000元人民币,只够支付日常开销。中产阶级,每年可支配收入在106,000 元到
229,000元人民币,他们是有更多可以随意花销的钱的人,但只占有城镇人口的6%。每年可支配收入高于229,000元人民币的就可以算是富裕人士
了,他们的人数只占城镇人口的2%。


       

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development defines the global middle class as those households with daily spending between $10 and $100 per person in purchasing power parity terms. The OECD reckons the U.S. has the biggest middle class in the world, with some 230 million people, or 73% of the population. It puts China's middle class at up to 10% of the population, but expects the number to rise to 40% by 2020.       

经济合作组织对中产的定义是每天消费在10美元到
100美元的人士,并根据不同国家价格水平进行调整。该组织认为美国有世界上最大的中产阶级群,即2,300万人口,占总国民的73%;而中国的中产数量
相当于近10%的人口数量,但预计2020年人数会上升到总人数的40%。根据胡润2013年数据,按美元计算,中国有408个身家在10亿美元以上的
人,而美国只有317个。


       

China has 408 billionaires, more than the 317 who live in the U.S., according to Hurun Global Rich list 2013.       

中国基本生活用品相对还是不贵,但要在中国过上中产
阶级生活,则并不便宜。在北京,一杯星巴克拿铁大约要4.81美元,旧金山要3.55美元,香港要3.87美元。中国制造的大众帕萨特在国内最高可以卖到
5万美金,在美国只要3.3万美元。中国制造的衣服和电子产品常常比国外价格要高,中国效率不高的零售系统可能是原因之一。


       

Although basic goods in China are still relatively cheap, it is costly to lead a middle-class life in China. A Starbucks grande latte costs $4.81 in Beijing, compared with $3.55 in San Francisco and $3.87 in Hong Kong. A locally made Volkswagen Passat sedan retails for up to $50,000 in China, versus up to $33,000 in the U.S. Goods that are made in China, including clothing and electronics, are often more expensive there than they are abroad, partly due to inefficient distribution.       

中国的中产阶级也受到高房价的困扰。“就是因为高房价,中国的中产阶级存不下什么钱。”波士顿咨询公司的合伙人Jeff Walters说。


       

The middle class in China also suffers from high housing costs. Average rent jumped 9% in Beijing in January, according to the Statistics Bureau. 'If only because of rent, it is hard to save a lot of money in top-tier cities for the middle class,' said Jeff Walters, a partner at Boston Consulting. In some ways, middle-class status in China doesn't confer the same privileges as in the West. In China, basic things such as uncontaminated baby formula, clean air, top-quality schools and private hospitals are luxuries, out of reach of many members of the middle class. Usually, the middle class is the stabilizing force in a society. But China's nascent middle class, which is increasingly demanding better health and more freedom, marched on the streets of the prosperous Ningbo city in 2012 to protest a chemical project.       

在中国做个中产阶级的感觉可能不如西方中产阶级。
那些日常的东西,比如安全的婴儿奶粉、洁净的空气、教学质量一流的学校和私人医院都是一种奢侈品,是普通的中产阶级可望而不可及的。一般来说,中产阶级是
社会的稳定力量,但中国的新兴中产阶级越来越多地要求更好的医疗条件和自由,在相对富裕的宁波市,去年市民为了反对一个化工项目走上大街游行。


       

The authorities have said they want to develop an olive-shaped society, with a fat base in the middle. The 18th Party Congress in late 2012 came up with a new plan to double average income by 2020 by changing the economic growth model and income distribution system. But they may be missing something.       

中国政府说想要打造橄榄型的社会,两头尖中间大。十八大也有了在2020年前,通过改变经济增长模式和收入分配结构来将收入翻倍的计划。但这么做并非足够。


       

'The government hasn't addressed the core of the issue,' said Wang Xiaolu of the China Reform Foundation and one of China's leading academics on income distribution. 'Without reforms of the fiscal system, land policies, social welfare and the administrative system, mere income growth can't resolve China's middle class problem.'       

“更突出的问题没有提,”中国收入分配专家、中国改革基金会的王小鲁说,“如果没有财税、土地、社保和行政体制的改革,光把收入提高解决不了中产的实际问题。”

2016-06-23

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