2015 a stress­ful year for many Chi­nese, new poll finds

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

More Chi­nese felt wor­ried and stressed in 2015 than in any year in the past decade, ac­cord­ing to a new Gallup poll.

Twenty-seven per­cent of the Chi­nese sur­veyed said they wor­ried a lot the pre­vi­ous day, while 40 per­cent said they ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of stress, a jump from the 18 per­cent and 28 per­cent, re­spec­tively, from the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to a Gallup re­port re­leased on Mon­day.

In the past decade, the per­cent­age of those say­ing they had a lot of stress had hov­ered be­tween a low of 28 per­cent in 2011 and 2014 and a high of 38 per­cent in 2013, while the per­cent­age of those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing worry saw a low of 18 per­cent in 2014 and a high of 25 per­cent in 2006 and 2009.

The Gallup re­port says such feel­ings have in­creased sharply as Chi­nese res­i­dents’ sat­is­fac­tion with their house­hold in­come and per­sonal sav­ings dropped pre­cip­i­tously last year amid China’s eco­nomic slow­down. It says per­sonal fi­nan­cial set­backs of­ten lead to in­creased worry and stress.

A Gallup re­port re­leased on Jan 18 showed that the sat­is­fac­tion that Chi­nese have with their house­hold in­come dropped from a high of 66 per­cent in 2014 to 58 per­cent in 2015.

The num­ber ex­pe­ri­enc­ing neg­a­tive emo­tions has in­creased more among ru­ral Chi­nese than among city dwellers, ac­cord­ing to the poll, which was taken of 4,265 Chi­nese in Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou in July 2015.

The fact that only big cities were cho­sen could be mis­lead­ing, be­cause Chi­nese liv­ing in big metropoli­tan ar­eas are known for ex­pe­ri­enc­ing more stress and worry due to the hec­tic work and life­style pace.

A to­tal of 28 per­cent of those liv­ing in ru­ral farm­ing ar­eas or small vil­lages said they wor­ried a lot the pre­vi­ous day, com­pared with only 16 per­cent in 2014. Mean­while, that fig­ure of 22 per­cent for ur­ban dwellers is down four per­cent­age points from 2014.

The same is true for the stress felt. Some 41 per­cent of ru­ral res­i­dents felt a lot of stress the pre­vi­ous day in 2015, up 15 points from 2014. Al­though the per­cent­age of ur­ban Chi­nese feel­ing stress was 40 per­cent, it was three points higher than in 2014.

The Gallup re­port did not say whether the rapid ur­ban­iza­tion in China, which has nar­rowed the ur­ban and ru­ral life­style gap, con­trib­uted to the faster in­crease in ru­ral stress and worry.

The re­port says ba­sic food and shel­ter are greater con­cerns in ru­ral China. Eight per­cent of ru­ral Chi­nese said there have been times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy food for their fam­i­lies, com­pared with 2 per­cent of ur­ban­ites say­ing the same.

Twelve per­cent in ru­ral ar­eas said they have not had enough money to pro­vide their fam­i­lies with ad­e­quate hous­ing in the past year, nearly twice the per­cent­age re­ported by city dwellers, or 7 per­cent, who have strug­gled to pro­vide hous­ing.

Anx­i­eties among ru­ral Chi­nese may be an in­evitable byprod­uct of the slow­ing econ­omy and struc­tural changes in China’s eco­nomic poli­cies, ac­cord­ing to the Gallup re­port.

It says that for decades, ru­ral Chi­nese have mi­grated to work in low-end man­u­fac­tur­ing plants, but those jobs are shift­ing to other Asian coun­tries such as Viet­nam and Bangladesh amid China’s tran­si­tion to­ward a ser­vice and high-tech econ­omy.

Ru­ral Chi­nese likely worry that their fu­ture eco­nomic prospects are dim­ming as mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing re­quires more highly skilled em­ploy­ees.

De­spite the Gallup re­port, Pew Cen­ter sur­veys have shown Chi­nese are among the most op­ti­mistic about their fu­ture. A Pew sur­vey in July showed that Chi­nese, at 88 per­cent, trail only Viet­namese in say­ing that their next gen­er­a­tion will be bet­ter off, com­pared with 32 per­cent in the United States.

Chi­nese lead­ers have pledged to nar­row the ru­ral and ur­ban di­vide and to im­prove job train­ing.

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