600 Million Chinese Earn Less Than $140 per Month, Premier Li Says

The leader of the world’s second-largest economy speaks of helping low-income groups.
Belinda ZhouMay 30,2020,06:55

China has over 600 million people with their monthly income below 1,000 yuan ($140) and their livelihood was further worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday.

The government head said at a news conference that a bulk of the population can’t afford to rent in a medium-sized city with their low monthly income of less than $140.

Chinese people have an average per-capita annual disposable income of 30,000 yuan($4,000), but over 40% of 1.4 billion Chinese people are still living on a daily income of less than $5 and at the risk of falling back into poverty when their household income declined due to the Covid-19 struck.

Looking ahead, Li said ensuring people’s livelihoods and employment will play key roles in the government’s work agenda after the epidemic.

Labor force base, aged 16 and over and capable of working, in the world’s second-largest economy, reached 900 million and the government tried to add 9 million in the urban area, according to Li.

“If they are out of work, there will be 900 million mouths to feed but if they are all put to work, 900 million pairs of hands will be able to generate tremendous wealth,” Li said in the press.

China’s urban unemployment rate rose to a near-historic high of 6% in April, up from 5.9% in March, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics in May.

The government set the unemployment rate at 6% for 2020. It’s not surprising, given that nearly half a million Chinese companies close in the first quarter, and GDP growth fell 6.8% in the first quarter.

Li shared a story he read at the official government website about a rural migrant worker, over 50 years old, who can’t find a job after he returned back to cities. He worked for over 30 years but it was the first time he can not find a job and his whole family encountered difficulties.

Rural migrant workers in China belong to vulnerable groups, amounting to 300 million with a monthly income of $530 in 2018, according to the national statistics center. At the end of April, 90% of migrant workers had returned to their jobs in the cities.

However, the People’s Bank of China said in April that each Chinese urban household has assets over $450,000 by the end of 2019, including property and financial assets after a survey with 30,000 samples.

The central bank said that the household wealth distribution of urban residents in China is more balanced than their U.S. peers. The top 1% richest U.S. citizens own 38.6% of the total net assets while the 1% only accounts for 17.1% of net assets in China.