People buying vegetables at Wenzhou market
Increases in the price of food and other goods are hitting China’s churches as well as business as attendances and donations fall. Some Catholics simply do not go to Mass because they feel embarrassed at not being able to give church offerings, while many younger ones have left their homes in central China to work in big cities to support their rural families, said Father Feng, who serves in Jinxian county in Jiangxi province. “Laypeople complain to me that 100 yuan (US$15) does not go very far any more,” he said. In Wenzhou diocese, eastern China, there are a lot of Catholics doing business. One of them, Joseph Chen, said he increased the pay of his 30 workers by 20 percent in early January. However, Chen anticipates he will have to offer another pay rise to keep his workforce after the Chinese Lunar New Year, a time that often sees high turnover of workers. With cost increases in electricity and raw materials as well as labor, he said, he is in a dilemma as he needs to increase his product prices. He fears this may affect sales. Income of parishes has remained similar to last year, but the actual value has shrunk, said Father Ma Xianshi of the open community of Wenzhou.
| Vendors waiting for customers |
Catholic charity operations are also impacted as expenses have increased with inflation. Wang Ting of Xi’an diocese’s Catholic Social Service Center said inflation has created difficulties for their projects since all their budgets were prepared last year. According to mainland media, China’s economy is expected to grow by 9.8 percent this year while the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the main measurement of inflation, may be around 3.7 percent. The CPI hit 5.1 percent in November 2010, the highest in 25 months. Food prices rose almost twice as fast as property prices in the past year. The inflation was result of rising agricultural product and resources prices, higher labor costs, abundant market liquidity and massive bank lending, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank. Related reports Eye project brings light to the poor in China Catholics pray for successful climate talks Catholic entrepreneurs seek work-life balance