Farmers' Living Conditions Improved

Zhao Huanxin

Living conditions for Chinese farmers improved significantly during the ninth Five-Year Plan period, although per capita net income increases have been sluggish in recent years, according to the State Development Planning Commission.

Partly attributable to the Asian financial crisis, a sharp decline in farm produce prices and poor township enterprise expansion, the annual net income growth rate for farmers fell from 9 percent in 1996 to 4.3 percent last year, according to commission statistics.

But compared with 1995 - the last year of the eighth Five-Year Plan - the per capita net income of rural residents had risen from 1,578 yuan (US$190) to 2,210 yuan (US$266) in 1999, according to commission sources.

More prosperous life

Figures suggest farmers are heading towards a more prosperous life. The following points support this:

Less spent on food: In 1999, 52.6 percent of farmers' total expenditure went on food, down by 6 percentage points from 1995. That means more money is available for education, entertainment and health.

More living space: The per capita living space for farmers expanded from 21 square meters to 24.35 square meters during the period. Moreover, farmers' homes now tend to be built in small towns.

Cozy and comfortable clothing: Keeping warm is not the single function of clothes for farmers now. They now also want fashionable things to wear.

Electrical household appliances are now finding their way into more rural homes. For example, the latest national survey indicates that in 1999 there were on average 100.59 TV sets for every 100 rural households, which is 19.86 percent more than in 1995.

Poverty relief

During the ninth Five-Year Plan period, China has realized its commitment to help 80 million poor people escape poverty by the end of 2000.

Subsidized loans, the launching of food-for-work projects and the extension of technology to impoverished regions are among the major methods that have been used to eliminate poverty in China.

By the end of this year, the country's fund set up to alleviate poverty will stand at 94 billion yuan (US$11.3 billion).

By the end of 1999, figures suggest the number of the rural inhabitants living in abject poverty had been reduced from 70 million in 1995 to 34 million.

(China Daily 09/28/2000)