|China’s Report on US Human Rights Record in 2000
Information Office of China's State Council
III. Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor and Deteriorating Situation
of Worker's Economic and Social Rights
The latter part of the 20th century was the most economically
prosperous period in US history, with the economic growth rate rising
steadily 118 months by the end of 2000.
However, the gap between the rich and poor widened and the living
standards of the laborers went from bad to worse. Pressing issues such
as poverty, hunger and homelessness proved difficult to solve.
The gap between the rich and poor in the United States grew at the
same pace as the economic growth. Statistics show that the richest 1
percent of the US citizens own 40 percent of the total property of the
country, while 80 percent of US citizens own just 16 percent.
Since the 1990s, 40 percent of the increased wealth went into the
pockets of the rich minority, while only 1 percent went to the poor
From 1977 to 1999, the after-tax income of the richest 20 percent of
American families increased by 43 percent, while that of the poorest 20
percent decreased 9 percent, allowing for inflation. The actual income
of those living on the lowest salaries was even less than 30 years ago.
An article in the February 21, 2000 issue of US News and World Report
pointed out that the average income of the richest 5 percent of families
in 1979 was 10 times of that of the poorest 20 percent of families. In
1999, the income gap had been enlarged to 19 times, ranking first among
the developed countries, and setting a record since the Bureau of Census
of the United States began studying the situation in 1947.
The income of the executives of the largest US companies in 1992 was
100 times that of ordinary workers, and 475 times higher in 2000.
According to an assessment by the US journal Business Week in August
2000, the income of chief executive officers was 84 times that of
employees in 1990, 140 times in 1995, and 416 times in 1999.
A survey shows that the real income of the one-fifth richest of the
families in Silicon Valley has increased 29 percent since 1992, while
the real income of the one-fifth poorest of the families in the valley
decreased during most of the 1990s, and the current income for the
poorest has bounced back to the same level in 1992, with the employees
at the lowest rank now earning 10 percent less than a decade age.
A great number of Americans suffer from poverty and hunger. According
to the statistics of the US government, over 32 million citizens, or
12.7 percent of the total population of the country, live under the
poverty line. The incidence of poverty is higher than in the 1970s, and
higher than in most other industrialized countries.
An investigation by the US Department of Agriculture in March 2000
showed that 9.7 percent of American families did not have enough food,
and at least 10 percent of families in 18 states and Washington D.C.
often suffered from hunger and malnutrition.
In 1998, 37 million American families did not have enough food. In
the state of New Mexico, 15.1 percent of the families were under threat
The number of homeless Americans has continued to increase. A study
in the mid-1990s showed that 12 million US citizens were or had been at
some time homeless. According to a survey of 26 large cities conducted
by the Conference of Mayors, the urgent demand for housing increased in
two-thirds of the cities in 1999 over previous years.
A report in The New York Times of July 9, 2000, said that housing in
New York was in the shortest supply of recent decades. More than 130,000
families in the city were waiting for public housing at that time, and
homeless shelters sometimes had to receive 5,000 families and 7,000
individuals for a night.
Serious infringements upon worker's rights have been reported.
Compared with other developed countries, the working hours of laborers
in the United States are the longest, while their social security
benefits and rights are the worst. According to a report in US News and
World Report in March 2000, the average working time of US citizens was
1,957 hours annually, longer than in other developed countries.
In Manhattan, about 75 percent of the people with high-level
education aged between 25 and 32 years old work more than 40 hours a
week. In 1977, only 55 percent of the people worked the same amount of
A newly published book in the United States said that some female
cashiers and workers on production lines have to wear protective
undergarments because they are not allowed to take time to go to the
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions submitted a report
to the World Trade Organization in July of 1999, saying that the rights
to organize and strike were not guaranteed in US labor laws.
When employers decide to break up or prevent the establishment of
trade unions, laborers have no legal redress. Only 13 percent of US
workers have joined trade unions.
More than 7 million of the 14 million functionaries in the state and
local governments have no right to collective negotiation, not to
mention the right to strike.
Millions of workers, including farm laborers, domestic workers, and
low-level supervisors, were explicitly excluded from protection under
the law guaranteeing the right of workers to organize.
In the 1950s, hundreds of workers were retaliated by employers for
exercising their right for association. By the 1990s, the number climbed
Worker's rights and social security cannot be guaranteed for U. S.
workers. A study by the US Department of Energy in 2000 showed that the
incidence of cancer among workers in nuclear weapons production was much
higher than workers in other industries due to exposure to harmful
radiation and chemical substances.
Since the end of World War II, 22 forms of cancer have been diagnosed
among the 600,000 workers in 14 nuclear plants in California, Washington
and other states; this incidence rate was several times that found in
The US government treads lightly on this issue until it was exposed by
media in recent years. Under public pressure, the US government had to
acknowledge the mistake.
About 30 million US citizens had no social security eight years ago,
and the figure has increased to 46 million currently. The British
newspaper Financial Times reported on October 25, 2000, that 12.3
percent of US citizens had no medical insurance 20 years ago, and the
rate has increased to 15.8 percent now, or one out of every six
The education situation in the United States is surprisingly poor.
According to a report in USA Today on November 29, 2000, illiteracy is
still a serious problem in such a highly developed country.
One in five high school graduates cannot read his or her diploma; 85
percent of unwed mothers are illiterate; 70 percent of Americans
arrested are illiterate; 21 million Americans cannot read.
According to a child protection foundation, 71 percent of fourth
graders are not at the education level they ought to be. College tuition
has grown faster than the increase of middle class families' income. The
dropout rate among college students has risen to 37 percent.
Statistics from the US Census Bureau show that the income of middle
class families increased only 10 percent from 1989 to 1999, while the
college tuition increased 51 percent during the same period. The average
college tuition in 1999 was 8,086 US dollars, accounting for 62 percent
of the income of low-income families.
The average tuition fee of private colleges was 21,339 US dollars in
1999, up 34 percent over 1989, accounting for 162 percent of the income
of poor families, but only making up for four percent of the income of
rich families. More than 30 million low-income families could not afford
to send their children to community colleges.