Hangzhou City Profile
Hangzhou is the capital of the province of Zhejiang. Hangzhou is known for it's captivating views, such as the beautiful West Lake and many lush and green mountains. Hangzhou is one of the most developed cities in China, ranked as the fourth-largest metropolitan area; this is due to it's rapid urbanisation ever since the 1990's which shows a significant growth in development. It's also home to the 1st and 6th richest men in China, Jack Ma, creator of the company group Alibaba and more famous for Taobo; and Zong Qing Hou, creator of Wahaha. Hangzhou mostly exports industrial goods such as agriculture and textiles; and has recently been developing more technological ares such as biotechnology, electronics, medicine etc. This is why an economic and technological zone has been established to encourage more industrial sectors. However, through this investigation, I've learnt that in every successful city, there will always be income inequality...
1. What is the minimum wage/average monthly income/highest income in Hangzhou? minimum wage: 1470RMB/month average monthly income: 4714RMB/month highest income (Zong Qing Hou) 6000000RMB/month (approx.) Hangzhou's minimum wage is already considered one of the highest in China, as shown in this graph. As you can see, some monthly minimum wage levels can go as low as below 1000RMB. Hangzhou is already considered a very privileged and lucky place to have such a high minimum wage, but when you put these numbers to use, they suddenly seem so little.
2. What are the statistics of income inequality in Hangzhou? I couldn't find any Hangzhou specific statistics, so I found some statistics about income inequality in China. This might limit the accuracy of the data but it's eyeopening nonetheless. China has about 150 million people living below the United Nations poverty line of one US dollar a day. [ Wikipedia “Income Inequality in China”; China Development Research Foundation Feb 2011 report ] Nearly 500 million Chinese people live on less than $2 a day. [ BBC News “Millions 'left behind' in rural China” May 12, 2010 ] 85% of China’s poor live in rural areas, with about 66% concentrated in the country’s west. [China Development Research Foundation Feb 2011 report ] 99% of China’s poor live in or come from rural areas, according to national statistics, which count migrant workers in cities among the rural, not urban poor. Even if migrant workers are excluded from the rural population, 90% of poverty is still rural. [ Wall Street Journal “Facts About Poverty in China Challenge Conventional Wisdom” April 13, 2009 ] Over half of China’s population lives in rural areas…but they share less than 12% of the country’s wealth. [ The Telegraph UK “China's wealth gap the widest since economic reforms began” March 2, 2010 ] Up to 200 million Chinese workers and peasants suffer from occupational ailments, according to data from the Ministry of Health. [ Wall Street Journal “Rich China, Poor Peasants” July 24, 2009 ] Levels of poverty are higher and more severe in China’s western regions, but nearly half of the poor are in other parts of the country. [ Wall Street Journal “Facts About Poverty in China Challenge Conventional Wisdom” April 13, 2009 ] China’s poverty among ethnic minorities is two to three times higher than among the Han Chinese. [ Wall Street Journal “Facts About Poverty in China Challenge Conventional Wisdom” April 13, 2009 ]
3. What kind of people are affected by the impacts of income inequality? First of the all, there are some people that are not affected by the impacts of income inequality for sure. Zong Qing Hou is the second richest man in Hangzhou (behind the famous Jack Ma) and is the business man behind the beverage company Wahaha. (Picture below) "We don’t need to solve the problem of the rich poor gap" He said at a launch for a chain of luxury shopping malls, "We need to solve the problem of common prosperity. I believe wealth should be in the hands of the those who know how to create more wealth."
The people that are affected are at the bottom of the income inequality chain. The prices for living in Hangzhou (on average) are shown below in the format of a slideshow. Here, we can calculate roughly how much one would have to spend in a week. Bread x 1 = 8.33 Eggs x 12 = 11 Oranges x 1kg = 6 Rice x 1kg = 7.17 Meals in a restaurant x2 = 50 Chicken x 0.5 kg = 16.25 Bus pass (monthly/weeks) = 12.5 This does not include utilities and rent as those are monthly. The overall price is = 111.25
As you can see, I've included so little in this list. However, just from those few items, the price has already amounted to over a hundred RMB. To think that the minimum monthly wage is just over a thousand RMB is ridiculous; the person would barely be able to pay for the bare necessities of basic living. I couldn't even imagine what these people would have to go through and they would have to struggle to cut ends and maintain a liveable life style.
These two interviews were conducted in the Hangzhou Children's Hospital that I visited. I understood that this was quite an uncomfortable topic to discuss, so I was satisfied with actually being able to interview two people.
1. What is your monthly income? a) Around 17,000 yuan b) Around 24,000 yuan
2. Do you think income inequality is an issue in Hangzhou? Why? a) It doesn't seem like an obvious issue, but there are some really rich people in Hangzhou, you know Zong Qing Hou? b) Only a small issue, but it doesn't affect me
3. To me, income inequality is an issue that needs to be solved. Did you know that the China is the third country in the world with the worst income inequality? (Show them gini coefficient graph below and explain it to them) a) no b) no
4. Now, what do you think about income inequality? How does it affect Hangzhou? a) I still don't really know what the income inequality is like in Hangzhou. But I'm guessing that it mostly affects the people with lowest income. b) I know now that income inequality is a big issue in China, but I don't see how it affects Hangzhou greatly.
5. What could we do to solve income inequality? a) The government should have a better policy for taxing, such as having more tax to the richer people. b) Help the people with low income.
After conducting these interviews, I found out the there are many limitations to my sources. First of all, in order to bring your child to the Hangzhou Children's Hospital, it's obvious that your income has to be sustainable enough to allow your child to be in a hospital of such high quality. Another limitation is that I only interviewed two subjects which narrows my perspective of the what views Hangzhou citizens have on income inequality.
Through these interviews, we see that the citizens of Hangzhou don't have a clear perspective, not only on the severity of income inequality in Hangzhou, but also the subject of income inequality itself. This could be because of the lack of representation of the citizens that sit near the bottom of the average monthly income range which limits the understanding citizens have of the struggles of people living with minimum wage. The government of Hangzhou also fails to recognize the issue of income inequality on a mass scale, which means that a normal citizen would not be exposed to the facts and details of income inequality.
Overall, I feel like the income inequality in Hangzhou is very underrated. The two citizens that I interviewed were both relatively oblivious to the severity of income inequality in Hangzhou. This reflects the lack of awareness for how income inequality could be improved on in Hangzhou. Through my investigation, I have discovered that Hangzhou's monthly minimum wage is already considered one of the highest in China, yet it would still be a great struggle to maintain healthy lifestyles with the monthly minimum wage. To spread awareness of this problem, the upper and middle class have to have a deeper understanding of income inequality and how it affects people. It is essentially the lack of perspective that leads to the lack of solving the issue of income inequality. So, how could we broaden the perspective of the citizens of Hangzhou?