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China's savings rate world's highest

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Latest figures from the IMF show that China's personal savings rate has become the world's highest. At more than 50 percent, it's well above the global average of 20 percent. Experts say the high savings rate could hurt China's economy because it reduces consumption.

Every month when Song Xiaoxu gets his paycheck, the first place he goes to is the bank.

The 25-year-old saves over half his salary, preparing to pay for something that still hasn't come into shape.

Song Xiaoxu, clerk, said, "I've worked for two years. Now I should be settling down. I'm planning to buy an apartment here when it's built. But it's too expensive for people like me. My whole family, including my grandparents, are all saving money for me for the down payment. And then I'll still have to save money to pay the mortgage."

Song is just one of the over a billion Chinese money savers.

Housing prices have soared in the past decade. And since last year, under the government's policy to cool the overheated housing market, the down payment required for an ordinary buyer is now over half of the total price.

Han Peng said, "So let me illustrate just how expensive an apartment has become. I'm standing on an area of one square meter. This square meter in an Beijing apartment would cost 30 thousand yuan. But the average monthly salary here in the city is less than 5 thousand (4672 yuan)... which means, that after working for a whole month, with no spending at all, you can only buy less than one sixth of this area. No wonder people want to save rather than spend."

Figures from the IMF show that China's personal savings have surpassed all other countries in the world, with an average rate of over 50 percent. The world's average is no more than 20 percent.

And the high cost of housing is not the only reason.

Zhao Longkai, economist of Peking University, said, "The fundamental reason for such high savings is uncertainty about future. Without an adequate social welfare system, many people have to save enough money on their own for their pension and medical expenses. That's especially true for the middle-aged generation, who would otherwise be a major force of consumption. Not only do they have to save money for their elderly parents, they are also worrying about their children's education and healthcare."

But it's not at all easy for younger generations.

Like other young people, Song used to go straight to the shopping malls, bars or movie theaters as soon as he got paid.

But now the pressures of life mean his desire to splurge has to come second.

The government says it's vital to turn savings into consumption at a time of global economic recession. But how much that can be achieved depends on how secure people feel in a country going through massive economic transition.


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