Analysts warn of widening wealth gap as China adds 76 billionaires to Forbes rich list

Updated 2017-03-22 09:31:15 Global Times

The Chinese government should closely monitor the country's wealth gap and focus on poverty relief, said Chinese experts, as China has the most new entries on Forbes magazine's annual ranking of the world's billionaires in 2016.

The business magazine's ranking published on Monday (local time) shows 196 new billionaires, including 76 from the Chinese mainland and 25 more from the US. While the US has the single largest number of billionaires at 565, China is closing in with 319.

As of 2016, China had over four million people whose net worth was over 10 million yuan (.5 million) and 150,000 with over 100 million, forming the biggest fortunes in the world, according to a report released by Fortune Character, a luxury consumption research agency.

Another report by a global property consultancy Knight Frank LLP revealed that China, which has 14,310 people whose net worth is over million, tops the world, meaning one ultra high net worth person for every 100,000 people in China.

The number of millionaires in China tripled in the past decade, the third fastest growth in the world, said the report.

However, China's Gini coefficient, an inequality index, where zero equals perfect equality, stood at 0.465 in 2016, said National Bureau of Statistics chief Ning Jizhe at a press briefing in January, higher than 0.462 in 2015 after dropping seven years in a row, the Xinhua News Agency reported on January 20.

Ning attributed the higher index to slower pension growth for some urban groups and the negative effect of falling grain prices on farmers' income, adding that the wealth gap was expected to narrow gradually as the government steps up poverty relief and pursues the development integration of urban and rural areas.

“The Gini coefficient shows that China continues to suffer from a relatively high level of income disparity,” Wang Junhui, a research fellow at the Chengdu-based Survey and Research Center for China Household Finance of Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Li Chang'an, a professor at Beijing's University of International Business and Economics, told the Global Times that it is crucial to address poverty relief, if the country is to reduce the wealth gap.

China should create more jobs and raise incomes, as many Chinese categorized as poor are unemployed, Li said.

Although the country is investing heavily to develop a sound social insurance system, it should further expand social security coverage, especially for rural residents and migrant workers, and have more people insured, Li said.

The 2017 government work report says 12.4 million people in rural areas had been freed from poverty in 2016.

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