For the first time the country's entire rural residents living
in abject poverty can expect the State to cover their subsistence
allowances, thanks to the government's latest move to narrow the
disparities between cities and rural areas.
The establishment of the wide-ranging subsistence allowance
system was announced at the annual central rural work conference,
which ended in Beijing on
This follows the implementation of such a system in the cities,
and a pilot project in some rural areas for nearly a decade,
experts said yesterday.
The central rural work meeting said that next year the
government will "continue to spend more" on agriculture and social
welfare projects and will "explore a social security system
covering both urban and rural dwellers."
It did not specify how much more would be earmarked for the
purpose, but funds to the rural sector have increased by 15.6
percent annually between 2003 and this year, according to Ministry
of Finance sources.
Du Xiaoshan, deputy director of the Rural Development Institute
under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the government's
decision to cover all of the rural poor represents a "big step in
Had it not been for the economic situation in the past, rural
people would have already been covered, just as their urban
counterparts are, Du told China Daily yesterday.
"The rural poor are the most vulnerable segment of the
population that must be taken care of in the country's drive to
build a 'harmonious society,'" he said.
Extending the subsistence allowance network to them would
entitle them to the benefits of the country's economic boom, and
help ensure social equity, Du said.
In particular, the allowances would help those who have lost
their farmlands to development projects, he said.
For centuries, rural residents have relied on their farmlands
for a living.
The amount of allowance for each person will not be large, since
there are many in need, Du said.
Calculated on an annual per capita income of less than 683 yuan
(US$87.6), China had 23.65 million rural residents living in
"abject poverty" by the end of last year, according to statistics
of the State Council Leading Group of Office of Poverty Alleviation
The figure, however, would be much higher if calculated
according to the United Nations standard of US$1 for each person
per day, Du said.
So far, about 2,000 counties have established a minimum living
standard for the rural poor, with about 10 million receiving a
subsistence allowance, according to official statistics.
(China Daily December 25, 2006)