China will have 900 million middle-income earners by 2050

An expert has concluded that China’s middle-income population will pass 900 million by 2050, more than 60 percent of the country’s predicted total population.

The number of middle-income earners in China has already grown to 400 million, which tops the world charts in this area. He Lifeng, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, revealed these statistics during the annual sessions of China’s top legislative and advisory bodies in March 2018.

His opinion has been echoed by Su Hainan, vice president of the China Association for Labor Studies, who agreed that the size of China’s middle-income earners has exceeded 300 million. He specifically counted earners with between median and triple disposable incomes.

Chinese scholars adopt an objective standard to categorize the middle-income group. But for the earners, some of them do not recognize their income status.

For instance, a family from central China’s Henan province with an annual income of more than 200,000 yuan refuse to be referred to as a middle-income family. Besides daily expenditures, the husband and the wife both have to take care of their respective parents. If one of the seniors is seriously ill, their family income will be insufficient to cover the medical costs.

Su said cases of people falling back into poverty because of disease or illness is a concern to many families. The issue at hand, then, is how to make this group feel less anxious about the future.

He said stabilizing economic growth, improving people’s incomes, elevating the level of social insurance in a reasonable space and especially perfecting the social insurance system to make it an equal one are ways to give the group a better sense of self-identification.

In addition, more high-quality public services should be provided to defuse worries of the middle-income earners, Su pointed out.

According to statistics, the average disposable income of Chinese residents was 23,821 yuan in 2016. This is a 44.3 percent increase from 2012, meaning more people are joining the middle-income group.

However, the percentage of middle-income earners in China still lags behind that of developed countries. A social survey in the US during the 1980s found that 66.7 percent of American citizens regarded themselves as middle-income earners.

Su proposed four paths to expand the size of Chinese middle-income earners, including maintaining steady economic growth, deepening income distribution system reform, improving fiscal and tax systems as well as perfecting social insurance, employment and entrepreneur systems.

If these four measures are fully implemented, Su anticipates that by the end of 2050 the population of middle-income earners in China will reach 900 million, 60 percent of the country’s predicted total population.