BEIJING (AFP) — The income gap between urban and rural areas in China is the worst in a generation, state media reported Friday, five years after leaders made equality a top policy aim.
The average city dweller received an income last year that was 3.33 times larger than that of his compatriot in the countryside, the China Youth Daily said, citing Agriculture Minister Sun Zhengcai. In 2006, the figure was 3.28.
"Especially this year, a growing number of factors make for an uncertain income outlook for farmers," Sun was quoted as saying. "It will be rather difficult to achieve speedy growth in farm incomes."
The current generation of leaders in Beijing have made it their top project to increase equality in Chinese society, with a focus on the divide between the urban and the rural population, in part to avoid social unrest.
"We will develop more channels to increase rural incomes," Premier Wen Jiabao said in his annual "state-of-the-union" address to parliament in March, as he promised increased spending on the agriculture sector.
The income gap between urban and rural areas has been growing steadily over the past years, official data shows. In 2000, the average urban income was 2.79 times larger than the average rural income.
The lowest level was in 1984, when the figure was just 1.71, down from 2.37 in 1978, reflecting the fact that the early years of economic reform in China especially benefited the farmers.
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