The rise of the “in­vis­i­ble poor”

Eco­nomic Ob­server (Bei­jing)

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There’s been a lot of chat on­line in China about the “in­vis­i­ble poor”, says Bai Zao. The term refers to young peo­ple who earn more than 10,000 RMB (£1,200) a month, a size­able in­come in China, yet who still strug­gle to live within their means ow­ing to their flash life­style. They wear ex­pen­sive suits, drink top-class Chilean wine, rent posh apart­ments that eat up more than half their salary and wouldn’t be seen dead in do­mes­tic-brand clothes. In­deed, a man was “ruth­lessly ridiculed” by young peo­ple on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia re­cently af­ter he was re­jected by a girl on a blind date for wear­ing Chi­nese-made shoes. This gen­er­a­tion has fully em­braced the Us-style pur­suit of con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion – an un­nerv­ing de­vel­op­ment for some in a coun­try his­tor­i­cally known for the fru­gal­ity of its peo­ple. Chi­nese economists are par­tic­u­larly con­cerned. It’s one thing, they say, to live a flash life “pay cheque to pay cheque” in the US, which has well-de­vel­oped re­tire­ment, in­sur­ance and wel­fare sys­tems; quite an­other to do so in China, which lacks many of these safety nets. The fear is that many of these in­vis­i­ble poor may one day find them­selves poor for real.

A gen­er­a­tion in pur­suit of con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion

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