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Middle class sitting in the driver's seat for consumption

Updated: 2013-11-14 00:51
By Shi Jing ( China Daily)

Consumers wield influence with brands, reports Shi Jing in Shanghai

China's emerging middle class is growing up, preparing to make its presence known in terms of the nation's economic growth.

According to the Discover China's Emerging Middle Class survey released by ZenithOptimedia, China's emerging urban middle class totaled 125 million in 2012, and the number is expected to reach 356 million by 2020.

It's a group with great potential to boost the country's consumption, and in the long term, the economy.

"The Chinese middle class is not necessarily the richest, as a large number of young people are put into this category, but they definitely promise more wealth with a bigger purchasing power in the near future," said Steven Chang, CEO of ZenithOptimedia Greater China.

The report is based on the findings of a survey of about 17,700 respondents in 150 cities, the largest study of its kind so far.

Definitions of China's middle class vary among the different research firms and institutions. But as Gerry Boyle, chairman of ZenithOptimedia Asia Pacific explained, middle-class families in the West have about 30 percent of their income left over after all their basic expenditures have been made, with the lion's share of that leftover income devoted to healthcare and their children's education.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, people across a wide range of income levels, including those making less than $30,000 and more than $100,000 a year, identify as being middle class in the United States.

ZenithOptimedia believes that the Chinese middle class includes those with an annual household income of at least 72,000 yuan ($11,815) in tier-one and tier-two cities, and 48,000 yuan in tier- three and -four cities.

Among the respondents, 57 percent reported an average annual household income of 179,000 yuan, with most of these possessing higher academic degrees. About 70 percent of this wealthy group was above 35 years old.

Huang Haibo is a well-known actor who has had frequent appearances on the TV series We Get Married. Playing a civil servant on the show, Huang learned that a person earning a monthly salary of 8,000 yuan or an annual income of around 120,000 yuan, roughly the income of a civil servant, is qualified to be called middle class.

"Working as an actor in China helps me to live quite well. To be honest, I think my income is way beyond the entry level of the middle class," Huang said at a news conference held by ZenithOptimedia.

In addition to having a comfortable income, members of China's middle class also own their own cars or at least have the intention of purchasing one soon. That is reflected in ZenithOptimedia's survey, in which 71 percent of the respondents said they own a car, while 50 percent plan to buy one within the next six months.

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