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China Plans Unified Survey to Gauge Wealth Gap, Daily Reports

China will carry out a comprehensive survey of urban and rural salaries that may help better gauge its income gap, the China Daily reported today, citing Xie Hongguang, a deputy head of the National Bureau of Statistics.

The survey will cover 140,000 households in urban and rural areas, and results will be published in 2013, Xie was quoted as saying. A press official at the bureau, who declined to be identified because of agency rules, confirmed the report.

Inaccurate information and fragmented efforts in the past have hindered government attempts to produce a nationwide Gini coefficient, which measures the income gap, according to the head of the statistics bureau, Ma Jiantang. The World Bank said China’s Gini coefficient reached 0.47 in 2009, exceeding the 0.4 mark used as a predictor for social unrest.

The index stood at 0.3897 for China’s rural households last year, Ma said at a press briefing on Jan. 17. The bureau didn’t disclose an urban coefficient because it couldn’t obtain accurate information from high-income urban families, Ma said.

The urban disposable income stood at 21,810 yuan ($3,458) in 2011, more than triple the level of the rural cash income, according to the bureau’s latest data. The index may have climbed from less than 0.3 a quarter century ago, Li Shi, professor of economics, School of Economics and Business at Beijing Normal University, estimated in March last year.

The index stood at 0.48 in 2010 for Singapore, according official data, while Hong Kong recorded the biggest wealth disparity in Asia, with a Gini coefficient of 0.53 in 2008, according to data compiled by the United Nations. A measure of 0 means all money is evenly distributed; 1 means one person has it all.

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