Economic growth sows unhappiness in China: study

China's economic growth of the last 20 years has generally been met with declining happiness, especially among the poorest members of society, according to a US analysis published on Monday.

The study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is based on six different surveys on self-reported satisfaction with life since 1990, a period when China's gross domestic product per capita increased fourfold.

"There are many who believe that well-being is increased by economic growth, and that the faster the growth, the happier people are. There could hardly be a better country than China to test these expectations," said lead author Richard Easterlin, professor of economics at the University of Southern California.

"But there is no evidence of a marked increase in life satisfaction in China of the magnitude that might have been expected due to the enormous multiplication in per capita consumption," said Easterlin, who is known for his work in the 1970s on how happiness is often not linked to wealth, coined the Easterlin Paradox.

"Indeed people are slightly less happy overall, and China has gone from being one of the most egalitarian countries in the world in terms of life satisfaction to one of the least."

In 1990, 68 percent of those in the wealthiest income bracket and 65 percent of those in the poorest reported high levels of satisfaction.

But the latter figure has fallen more than 23 percentage points in the past two decades, according to the USC analysis of surveys carried out by the Pew Research Center, Gallup, and Horizon Research Consultancy Group, among others.

Only 42 percent of Chinese people in the lowest income bracket reported high levels of life satisfaction in 2010, said the PNAS report.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest Chinese who said they were satisfied with their lives grew about three percentage points, to 71 percent.

"There is no evidence of a substantial uptrend in life satisfaction of the magnitude that might have been expected given the fourfold increase in GDP per capita over the study period," said the study.

While the surveys did not document the reasons for the decline, it is a well-known phenomenon that "growth in aspirations induced by rising income undercuts the increase in life satisfaction related to rising income itself," said the study.

Other reasons may include "home life and the need for a secure job to support it, health, friends and relatives," it added.

Similar trends have been observed in the former Soviet Union and East Germany during their transition periods.

But the study cautioned that it would be "a mistake to conclude from the life satisfaction experience of China, and the transition countries more generally, that a return to socialism and the gross inefficiencies of central planning would be beneficial."

Instead, leaders should take note that "jobs and job and income security, together with a social safety net, are of critical importance to life satisfaction."

The study also applauded the Chinese government for taking steps in the last few years to "repair the social safety net," which it described as "encouraging" for the country's least advantaged citizens.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippine, Vietnam troops play sports on disputed island
    Philippine, Vietnam troops play sports on disputed island

    Filipino and Vietnamese troops played football and tug-of-war on a disputed South China Sea island on Wednesday, officials said, closing ranks as their rival China ramps up construction of artificial islands. The games took place on Philippine-held Northeast Cay, just 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles) from Southwest Cay which is controlled by Vietnam, where a similar contest was held last year. "It was a navy-to-navy confidence-building engagement," Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, the Philippine …

  • ‘Inland areas could be exposed to tsunami-like waves’
    ‘Inland areas could be exposed to tsunami-like waves’

    While strong earthquakes cause tsunamis in coastal areas, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned that inland areas could also be exposed to tsunami-like waves, or seiche, if located near or around bodies of water. In a recent earthquake awareness seminar in Muntinlupa, Phivolcs supervising science research specialist Joan Salcedo explained that a seiche is a large wave similar to a tsunami, triggered by strong ground shaking from an earthquake or volcanic …

  • China gives ‘gentle reminder’ to Phl, warns small nations
    China gives ‘gentle reminder’ to Phl, warns small nations

    China gave the Philippines a “gentle reminder” last Tuesday that Beijing will not bully small countries but warned these nations not to make trouble willfully and endlessly. “Here is a gentle reminder to the Philippines: China will not bully small countries, meanwhile, small countries shall not make trouble willfully and endlessly. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also said that China would continue to build other civilian facilities on relevant maritime features in the disputed Spratly Islands …

  • Back-channel diplomacy pushed for Phl-China dispute
    Back-channel diplomacy pushed for Phl-China dispute

    The Philippines should consider backchannel diplomacy to prevent its territorial dispute with China from deteriorating further, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said yesterday. There are a lot of Filipino businessmen with businesses in China and they have friends and connections there. Let’s utilize that, ask them to talk to their friends on how we can resolve this matter peacefully,” Marcos said. …

  • Phl, Japan to deepen ties amid China sea claims
    Phl, Japan to deepen ties amid China sea claims

    Japan and the Philippines are set to bolster security ties when President Benigno Aquino visits Tokyo next week, the latest move by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to beef up cooperation with Southeast Asian nations facing China’s growing naval ambitions. The two sides will likely agree to start talks on a framework for the transfer of defense equipment and technology and to discuss a possible pact on the status of Japanese military personnel visiting the Philippines to facilitate joint training and …

  • Phl, Vietnam troops play soccer on disputed isle
    Phl, Vietnam troops play soccer on disputed isle

    Vietnamese and Philippine troops played soccer and sang karaoke on a South China Sea island yesterday in a sign of the growing security ties between the two Southeast Asian nations most at odds with Beijing over the contested waterway. Cooperation has blossomed between Hanoi and Manila since they shelved decades of enmity over their competing claims in the Spratly archipelago to try to counter China, whose creation of artificial islands in the region will allow it to project power deep into …

  • Noy swears in 50 newly appointed AFP officers
    Noy swears in 50 newly appointed AFP officers

    President Aquino administered yesterday the oath taking of 50 newly appointed generals and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a simple ceremony at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace. …

  • Taiwan’s peace call on claimants of disputed territories welcomed
    Taiwan’s peace call on claimants of disputed territories welcomed

    The US on Tuesday welcomed Taiwan’s call on all claimants to disputed shoals, reefs, rocks and islets in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea to exercise restraint, refrain from unilateral actions that could escalate tensions, as well as to respect international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. “With regard to the maritime claims and the claims to sovereignty over land features in the South China Sea, our position is that maritime claims must …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options