China’s income gap narrowed for the fourth straight year in 2012, the country’s statistics chief said today, releasing the politically sensitive figure for the first time in 13 years.
The nation’s Gini coefficient was 0.474 in 2012, down from 0.491 in 2008, Ma Jiantang, head of the National Bureau of Statistics, said at a briefing in Beijing to release last year’s economic data. The figure is above the 0.4 level used by analysts as a gauge of the potential for social unrest.
The new generation of Communist Party leaders who took power in November have highlighted the need to narrow China’s income gap. Reducing inequality is one of the main challenges facing the world’s second-biggest economy, the World Bank said in a February 2012 report.
“The income gap may have narrowed in recent years, but it’s still too early to say that the narrowing is a trend,” Li Shi, executive dean of Beijing Normal University’s China Institute of Income Distribution and a government adviser, said in a phone interview. “The number is close to what others have calculated about China’s income gap.”
Until today, the government hadn’t released a national Gini coefficient number since 2000, when the figure was 0.412. Bo Xilai, the ousted former Communist Party secretary of Chongqing, said in March it had exceeded 0.46