A government report in China says the gap in income between the country's rich and poor is growing steadily, increasing the risk of future social instability.

Unless the current trend is reversed, experts at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security say, China's income gap will broaden to a dangerous level within five years. Government researchers call this the national economy's "red-light scenario."

The gap between rich and poor also is largely an income gap between those who live in urban and rural areas of China.

The China Daily newspaper, reporting Monday on the government study, quotes a researcher, Su Hainan, president of the ministry's Income Research Institute, who says incomes in China's cities have been rising at a rate of 8 to 9 percent each year. This compares to 4 to 5 percent annual income growth in rural areas.

Official statistics indicated earlier this year that 45 percent of China's wealth is held by 10 percent of the people; conversely, the 10 percent of Chinese who are the country's poorest have only 1.4 percent of the national wealth.

China's wealth gap already has been blamed for a rise in protests, many of them violent, by citizens who are frustrated and angry about land disputes, officials' abuse of power and corruption.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.