China Daily: Happiness for some, regardless of crisis
In a quiet park northeast of Beijing yesterday afternoon, retiree Li Shewen went about her daily routine of walking her dog and catching up with her neighbors.
The 53-year-old lives a stress-free life, with "no major concerns". "I'm happy right now," she said.
Li is one of the hundreds of Beijingers who are "satisfied with their lot", according to a survey by Peking University.
The survey polled 7,214 people from 2,375 families in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, about half of whom said they were satisfied with their lives despite the rising fear of unemployment and the soaring cost of living.
In December, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the urban unemployment rate was 9.4 percent, its highest for 10 years, and "many" city people have recently been forced to take pay cuts.
Despite the facts, the survey said only one in 10 people in Beijing is currently "unhappy" with their life.
It also claimed that 94 percent of Beijingers believed the local government has made some improvements to residents' lives.
Li said her contentment stems from the benefits she gets - a monthly pension of 1,800 yuan ($260).
Her husband works at a factory and her 28-year-old daughter works for a bank.
"We're not rich, but we have a stable income. The financial crisis has had only a limited impact on our lives," she said.
She also praised the social services in the capital.
"Beijing's healthcare system is one of the best in the country, which benefits elderly people like me," she said.
"The river used to be polluted but now it is clean, and I have one of the largest parks in north Beijing right under my window," she said.
But not all "elderly" people get to live the idyllic life enjoyed by Li.
Lu Shucang, a 63-year-old, said her family worries all the time about soaring housing costs.
"I have been sharing a small apartment with my son and daughter-in-law for five years, and it seems the situation will not change in the near future," she said.
Housing prices began falling last year, but they are still way beyond her budget, she said.
"The housing issue is torturing many Beijing residents," Lu said.
"I hope the government will build more cheap houses for the poorest people."
Qiu Zeqi, the professor in charge of the survey, said that it was not surprising that 60 percent of Beijingers polled were classed as happy.
The university plans to expand the survey next year to about 56,000 people in 25 provinces and cities, who will then be followed for 10 years, he said.
"We'll make the results available free of charge," he said.
(China Daily 03/05/2009 page3)