Gov't Refuses to Release Gini Coefficient
For the eleventh year in a row, Chinese officials say they cannot publish the nation's Gini coefficient—a common measure of income inequality used worldwide.
The main reason, National Bureau of Statistics Director Ma Jiantang said January 17, is that data on high-income groups is incomplete. Some experts criticized the announcement, saying the government is looking for reasons to de-emphasize China's significant wealth gap.
"The idea that our government can't use inaccurate information is an excuse for refusing to release the Gini coefficient," wrote China Europe International Business School Professor of Economics and Finance Xu Xiaonian on the microblogging platform Sina Weibo. "The government could release Gini Index based on the current data and revise it later."
The last time Chinese officials published a Gini coefficient was in 2000, when they announced that China's 2000 figure was 0.412. A 2011 NBS report said 2011's "Gini coefficient is a little bit higher than that in 2010," but did not elucidate either year's figures.
Gathering data on high-income earners in China can sometimes prove difficult. A 2007 China Reform Foundation report found that 4.4 trillion yuan in urban residents' "grey income" had not been accounted for, amounting to 24 percent of China's total GDP.
In 2010, China had 960,000 millionaires with more than 10 million yuan in personal wealth—a 9.7 percent increase over the previous year, the Hurun Research Institute and GroupM Knowledge reported in 2011.
Estimates of China's Gini coefficient over the past ten years are few and far between. According to the United Nations Human Development Report, China's Gini index in 2001 was 0.447. A 2005 report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the Gini coefficient was nearly 0.47 in 2005.
The Gini coefficient, which measures income distribution on a scale of zero to one, indicates a relatively reasonable income gap if the number is between 0.3 and 0.4. A Gini index between 0.4 and 0.5, however, signals a large income gap.
"When the Gini coefficient reaches around 0.5, it means the inequality problem is extremely severe and needs immediate action to bring it down," Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Senior Economist Zhou Tianyong told the China Daily in 2010.
Ma said the government may be able to calculate a national Gini coefficient in 2013, after it has completed an integrated investigation of rural and urban residents' income levels.
In its 12th Five-Year Plan for 2011 to 2015, the Chongqing Municipal government said it plans to bring down its Gini ratio from 0.42 to 0.35, the Beijing News reported. It is the first local government to integrate the Gini coefficient into its Five-Year Plan.
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