By Cheng Yu & Ruan Rongping
Research Report Vol.19 No.3, 2017
The 2016 China Livelihood Survey was conducted by State Council Development Research Center in the following eight provinces: Hebei, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Heilongjiang. A total of 9,744 valid questionnaires werereceived from registered households in urban, rural and suburban areas, making up 40.06%, 42.43% and 17.52%, respectively, of the entire sampling group. The survey result shows that the interviewees still remain satisfied with quality of life, indicating the positive impact from a series of measures adopted by the central government to improve people’s livelihood in recent years. However, due to increasing living expenses and insufficient social security, the interviewees show increased concern regarding the retirement plan, medical care and others, and slightly increased dissatisfaction with housing condition. This study calls for more detailed and refined social work that focuses on key areas and certain groups.
I. The Interviewees Remain Satisfied with Quality of Life, but show the Least Satisfaction with Income and Healthcare
About 31.60% of interviewees indicate satisfied with all aspects of family life, up 2.95 percentage points from the previous year. However, the income growth of urban and rural residents continues to decline due to the decline of economic growth, and causes the reduced ability to cope with risks; tasks aimed at improving people’s well-being are now facing greater pressure and challenges while inadequate effort is also apparent in certain aspects. For urban and rural residents, their least satisfactory aspects not only reflect the issues they concern the most but also point to the areas where the government’s social work needs to improve.
The majority of urban and rural interviewees regard income as the least satisfactory aspect of livelihood. However, the degree of dissatisfaction is diminishing; about 28.13% of the interviewees regard income as the least satisfactory aspect of life, lower than the previous year’s by 2.67 percentage points. The second most interviewees, about 14.09% of the sampling group, regard medical services the least satisfactory aspect of livelihood, increasing by 1.70 percentage points when compared with the previous year. The third most respondents have different choices: about 9.94% of urban interviewees and 7.09% of suburban interviewees are least satisfied with the housing condition, while about 5.49% of rural interviewees are least satisfied with retirement plan (see Figure 1).
The interviewees’ dissatisfaction with employment significantly declines, as only 3.83% of the respondents indicate employment as the least satisfactory aspect of life, down 3.98 percentage points over the previous year. The migrant workers are most affected by the economic downturn. The percentage of migrant workers that indicate employment as the least satisfactory is down by 7.3 percentage points from the previous year (see Figure 1). This is because the steady recovery of the economy has brought about the revival of employment; on the other hand, it may be because the interviewees have a more objective view and adequate understanding on the economic downturn and income growth so that they form a more realistic and reasonable expectation toward income and job opportunities.
II. Increased Pressure on Social Assistance as Some Urban and Rural Residents are facing greater Risk of Falling Income
1. As some urban and rural residents are facing greater risk of falling income; decreased income is the main factor of dissatisfaction with life
The change of economic situation still has significant impact on household income. About 32.99% of the interviewees believe that the income will decrease, higher than the previous year by 6.12 percentage points. The income of rural migrant workers rebounds. Among the informal employees, who are significantly affected by the economic downturn, about 39.07% believe a decreasing income, 8.21 percentage points higher than that of the previous year. Falling income is a more prominent concern among some rural residents; about 40.08% of rural interviewees believe a decreasing income, higher than that of the previous year by 7.57 percentage points. The 2016 survey increased the weight of the sampling in poor areas①, but the impact of declining incomes does not come from poor areas. When compared to those of the previous year, the percentages of interviewees from the poor areas who believe in growing income and falling income are 1.01 percentage points lower and 1.4 percentage points higher, respectively, while the percentages of interviewees from non-poverty areas are 6.94 percentage points lower and 4.07 percentage points higher, respectively (see Table 1). The diminishing income is an important factor tied to the interviewees’ satisfaction with life. The score of life satisfaction for those who believe a falling income is 64.55, which is lower than the scores given by those who believe income will remain unchanged or will increase by 9.58 and 6.29 points, respectively. About 35.80% of the interviewees who believed a declined income regarded income as the least satisfactory aspect of livelihood. The percentage point is 11.54 higher than that of the interviewees who believe income remain unchanged or will increase, and 7.67 higher than that of the total interviewees (see Figure 2).
2. The increased pressure on social assistance
The increased range of falling income makes the life more difficult for the low-income group, and the pressure for social assistance thus increases significantly. The survey shows that the percentage of interviewees who received government financial aid rises to 12.26%, an increase of 3.74 percentage points over the previous year. As the falling income affects more rural residents, 16.98% of rural interviewees received government financial aid, up 7.18 percentage points from the previous year. The strengthened poverty alleviation project has increased the number of people who have received financial aid in poverty-stricken areas: about 21.32% of interviewees from the poverty-stricken counties have received financial aid, 5.17 percentage points higher than that of the previous year. The main form of assistance is to provide minimum social security. Among the interviewees who have received the government financial assistance, 55.98% receive minimum social security, 7.95% receive Five Living Basics Security for Rural Households, 6.28% rural impoverished households living assistance, 8.2% medical assistance, and 8.95% temporary assistance. Social assistance policies play an effective role in safeguarding social fallback.
III. Household Expenditure still sees High Pressure in Medical Expenses; increased Concerns Regarding the Affordability of Future Medical Care
1. Medical care still a financial burden to some families
The pressure from medical expenses is the reason why the interviewees are not satisfied with the medical service. In terms of the biggest pressure in household consumption expenditure, 28.89% interviewees select medical care, up 4.64 percentage points from the previous year. And among the interviewees who view medical care asthe biggest pressure in household spending, 39.95% also view medical care asthe least satisfactory aspect of life. Only 23.98% interviewees do not show dissatisfaction with the medical services. Of the interviewees who are dissatisfied with the medical services, 59.06% indicate the main reason is “too expensive to see a doctor”.
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