Friday, January 16, 2009

Urban/Rural Disparity Intensifies

It is becoming clear who is being hit hardest and where it hurts most in the current economic crisis.

From The Associated Press:

SHANGHAI, China (AP) — The politically divisive income gap between China's affluent citydwellers and its huge farm population expanded to its widest level ever last year as the economy slowed, putting millions of rural migrants out of work.

Agriculture Ministry statistics show the gap between average urban and rural incomes expanded to 11,100 yuan (about $1,600) in 2008, with the ratio between the richer city residents to those in the countryside rising to 3.36 to 1, the state-run newspaper China Business News reported Friday.

The ratio was 3.33 to 1 in 2007, with the gap then at 9,646 yuan (about $1,400).

While the statistical difference seems small, the trend suggests the economic slowdown is foiling efforts by China's communist leaders to close the long-standing, sensitive wealth gap between the cities that have prospered since economic reforms began 30 years ago, and the villages that have lagged behind.

Read On
It makes sense that those who have been living a comfortable life will be able to ride out the decline that we're currently encountering in relative comfort. It also makes sense that those who've been scraping with newly found riches in factories and migrant work will quickly fall once their services are no longer needed.

A friend of mine told me that he saw a TV program on Xi'an's local channel this week about migrant workers coming home to villages in southern Shaanxi Province. The program said that this one particular village has received an influx of workers returning home after being laid off in factories throughout China. Apparently, many of those workers were bringing skills, technology, and ideas they'd learned in factories with them back to the countryside.

For the sake of everyone involved, I hope that this report from China's state run television has some semblance to reality and is not simply propaganda. It could be a silver lining in, what will surely be, a dark time for millions upon millions of people in China's countryside.

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