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Geographical distribution of public services unbalanced

CHEN ALONG | 2018-03-15 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

The table shows the average distance from a residential unit—defined as a residential neighborhood in a city or a village—to the nearest public service facility in Chinese Mainland. (CHEN ALONG/CSST)


Across the nation, the average distance from residence unit—defined as a residential neighborhood in a city or a village—to the nearest hospital is 11.5 kilometers. However, in urban areas, the average is 4.5 kilometers versus nearly 18 kilometers in rural areas, according to the Blue Book of National Geographic Conditions of China (2017).

Published by the Chinese Academy of Surveying and Mapping (CASM), it is the first blue book on the results of the general survey of China’s geographic conditions.

CASM President Cheng Pengfei said the blue book provides analysis of China’s geographic conditions by focusing on surface resource endowment and ecological situation, exploitation and utilization of construction land, the coverage and service capacity of transportation infrastructure, geographical conditions and spatial patterns of economic development, the equalization of accessibility of basic public service facilities, as well as the spatial pattern of urban development. Studies of the analysis results have compared different provinces, cities, geographic grids and topographic units and examined differences between urban and rural areas, Cheng said.

In the chapter on equal access to basic public services, the book primarily focuses on the infrastructure of three basic public services—education, medical care and welfare. By surveying the spatial relationship between public service facilities and residence units, the book analyzes the distribution characteristics as well as the equality and fairness of spatial allocation by using two major metrics—shortest distance from a residence unit to a public service facility and the service coverage rate of certain types of public facilities.

The service coverage rate refers to the percentage that the residence units a facility covers account for in the entire geographic unit. The higher the rate is, the more balanced the facility is located, because it benefits and serves more.

According to the blue book, the housing estates and villages are unevenly located in different regions, and between urban areas and rural areas. As a result, the situation of the equity level of public service facility distribution is complex. In terms of basic education, the allocation level of elementary schools is generally high and the urban-rural gap is small. However, the gap between the borderland areas and national average is notable.

The national average shortest distance from a residential unit to a primary school is 2 kilometers. Setting 500 meters as their service radius, national primary schools have an average service coverage rate of about 30 percent. In terms of junior and senior high school, the national average distance is 4.9 kilometers. The numbers, in urban and rural areas, respectively, are 1.6 and 7.8. When setting 1 kilometer as their service radius, the service coverage rates in urban and rural areas are respectively, 49.8 percent and 5.3 percent.

In terms of the service coverage of hospitals, the blue book suggests the accessibility of hospitals is generally high in urban areas but low in rural areas. The number of hospitals at high levels is not enough. Patients suffering from critical illnesses have to travel a long distance to get treatment.
The average distance from a residence unit to the nearest welfare facility is 8.95 kilometers. The number of welfare facilities is inadequate, and the regional disparity of welfare facility distribution is prominent, according to the blue book.


(CHEN ALONG is a correspondent with Chinese Social Sciences Today)