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Who are China's middle class?

News, 25 April 2017
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BEIJING: China's middle class is younger than that of other countries, with most relying exclusively on salaries generated in a few key sectors, according to new research.

Recruitment website Zhaopin defined the middle class as those earning between 100,000 yuan ($14,592) and 500,000 yuan annually and, in a survey of almost 50,000 such people, it was reported that just over half (52%) came from the post-80's generation.

"This phenomenon is due to China's unique social evolution," said Guo Sheng, the CEO and director of Zhaopin.com, in remarks reported by China News Service.

The research also found that most respondents had carved out their success in the internet, finance and real estate sectors and that 38% lived in first-tier cities.

Their salaries accounted for 93% of their total income and almost all (95%) expressed some anxiety about their future, with certain issues recurring, including inflation, food safety and property purchase restriction.

That sense of insecurity was also reflected in a separate, academic survey which, China News Service reported last week, showed that almost three quarters of the country's middle class only just made it into that classification and actually had more in common with the class below them.

That analysis, however, was based on data contained in the sixth national census in 2010, including details from 683,291 working people aged from 16 to 64 .

Li Qiang, a professor with the School of Social Sciences of Tsinghua University, said that China has both a transitional and marginal middle class and that life doesn't vary much between the marginal middle class and lower class.

Li also observed that the larger a city becomes, the smaller the proportion of low-income workers and the bigger the middle class: in mega cities, for example, the middle class made up 41.4% of the working population, but in small cities that figure was just 14.1%.

Data sourced from China News Service; additional content by WARC staff

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