It’s a shame that cities are forc­ing the poor to leave

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

When we talk about the health of an econ­omy, we fo­cus on macroeconomics, which deals with the per­for­mance, struc­ture, be­hav­ior and de­ci­sion-mak­ing process that deal with the growth, in­fla­tion and em­ploy­ment (or un­em­ploy­ment). We also take into con­sid­er­a­tion micro­eco­nomics that stud­ies the be­hav­iors of in­di­vid­u­als and en­ter­prises in de­cid­ing the al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources, as well as the ef­fects of a coun­try’s eco­nomic poli­cies. Amid all this eco­nomics jar­gon (for lay in­di­vid­u­als), the role of the in­for­mal econ­omy gets lost.

Un­wit­tingly, the lat­est pop­u­la­tion data of Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou, China’s three ma­jormetropolises, shed some light on the in­for­mal econ­omy (or sec­tor) and peo­ple en­gaged in it. The pop­u­la­tion data of the three cities for the first half of the year show the num­ber of res­i­dents in cen­tral Bei­jing de­clined and the growth rate in Guangzhou slowed. Then comes the dis­turb­ing part of the data: those mov­ing out of themetropolises are mainly poorer res­i­dents, or those work­ing in the in­for­mal sec­tor.

The mov­ing out of poorer res­i­dents, or “low-end pop­u­la­tion” as some me­dia out­lets have hu­mil­i­at­ingly de­scribed them, is no big news, right? Wrong.

The pop­u­lar per­cep­tion is that peo­ple liv­ing at the lower lev­els of so­ci­ety con­trib­ute lit­tle to noth­ing to a coun­try’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Noth­ing could be far­ther from the truth, for with­out the valu­able con­tri­bu­tion of these peo­ple, a so­ci­ety (es­pe­cially mod­ern so­ci­ety) sim­ply can­not func­tion. Imag­ine a city with­out con­struc­tion work­ers; veg­etable, fruit, fish and meat ven­dors; bar­bers; garbage col­lec­tors; street clean­ers, small stall and kiosk own­ers; and house­maids?

It points to the inad­e­quacy, if not fail­ure, of the so­cial wel­fare and se­cu­rity sys­tems ... the prob­lems of find­ing a house to live in and get their chil­dren ad­mit­ted to schools are forc­ing poorer peo­ple to move out of big cities.

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