Press conference: Securing and improving people's livelihood

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Mr. Chen Baosheng, secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and minister of the Ministry of Education
Mr. Huang Shuxian, secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and minister of the Ministry of Civil Affairs
Mr. Yin Weimin, secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and minister of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security
Mr. Wang Menghui, secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and minister of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development
Ms. Li Bin, secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission

Guo Weimin, spokesperson for the 19th National Congress of the CPC and deputy director of the State Council Information Office

Oct. 22, 2017

Guo Weimin:

Ladies, gentlemen, friends from the media, good morning. Welcome to the fifth in the series of press conferences held at the Press Center of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Attending today's press conference are: Mr. Chen Baosheng, the secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and the minister of the Ministry of Education; Mr. Huang Shuxian, the secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and the minister of the Ministry of Civil Affairs; Mr. Yin Weimin, the secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and the minister of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security; Mr. Wang Menghui, the secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and the minister of the Ministry of Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development; and Ms. Li Bin, the secretary of the Leading Party Members' Group and the minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

They will introduce work related to meeting people's new aspirations, and securing and improving people's livelihood. They will also answer some of your questions.

I will now give the floor to Mr. Chen Baosheng.

Chen Baosheng:

Good morning. Education is quite integral to people's well-being. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, China's education has made remarkable progress. General Secretary Xi Jinping fully endorsed the achievements in his report to the 19th CPC National Congress, saying that all-round progress has been made in the development of education, with remarkable advances made in the central and western regions and in rural areas.

The achievements can be summarized in the following aspects.

First, there are more distinctive Chinese characteristics in education over the past five years than before. We have upheld and strengthened the Party's leadership over education and guided those engaged in education to maintain political integrity, think in terms of the big picture, follow the leadership core, and keep in alignment with the central Party leadership. We have strengthened and improved our ideological and political work and promoted core socialist values. Regarding these as fundamental projects, we have guided students to develop an accurate understanding of history, ethnicity, country and culture, enhancing their pride and confidence as Chinese nationals.

Second, modernization of education has been accelerated over the past five years. Investment in education has increased to more than 3 trillion yuan from 2 trillion yuan five years ago. And that figure is expected to reach 4 trillion soon. Investment in education accounted for 4 percent of GDP in 2012, and that proportion has remained stable over the past five years. More than 90 percent of schools of various types and at all levels have access to the internet, up from 20 percent five years ago. Over the past five years, the education sector won two-thirds of the top national prizes for major scientific and technological achievements, namely the State Natural Science Award, National Science and Technology Progress Award and State Technological Invention Award, indicating that we have a strong buttress for improving educational quality. A total of 65 million graduates who have received higher education or training in professional skills entered the workforce in the past five years, having markedly enriched China's human capital and boosted the implementation of innovation-driven development strategies.

Third, the people's sense of fulfillment in regard to education has grown stronger. Over the past five years, bearing in mind the principle that "no one should be left behind," we have increased investment in poor rural areas and ethnic group-inhabited areas. We have reached the outstanding goal that no child drop out of school due to financial difficulties. More than 90 percent of disabled children have access to education. More than 80 percent of the children of migrant workers have received education in public schools in the cities and towns where they and their parents live, and they are also allowed to take the college entrance exam in their cities of residence. In 2017, around 150,000 such students registered for the college entrance exam in their cities of residence, 35.6 times that of five years ago.

We have established a system for subsidizing students from preschool to higher education, under which children from poor families are able to pursue their studies. Here are two examples. Two students, Wei Xiang from Gansu Province and Pang Zhongwang from Hebei Province, enrolled in Tsinghua University this year thanks to the special admission plans for students from rural areas.

Fourth, China's education has gained an increasing influence internationally. Over 180 countries and regions have established cooperative relations in education with China. Forty-seven countries and regions have signed agreements with China on mutual recognition of education qualifications and degrees, signaling that Chinese education has been recognized across the world. A total of 516 Confucius Institutes and more than 1,000 Confucius classrooms have been established in 140-plus countries, giving a strong boost to Chinese-language education and the promotion of Chinese culture. China has become the largest overseas study destination in Asia and the third-largest in the world.

Lastly, education reform has been consistently deepened. A number of signature and leading reform plans have been adopted, and the "multiple pillars" supporting the new education systems have been erected.

Above are the five characteristics of China's education in the past five years. According to the report to the 19th CPC National Congress, with decades of hard work, socialism with Chinese characteristics has crossed the threshold into a new era. And the principal contradiction facing Chinese society has evolved. What we now face is the contradiction between unbalanced and inadequate development and the people's ever-growing needs for a better life. Our task in the next step will be to actively respond to what the people expect for education by seizing the principal contradiction and analyzing the phenomena reflecting the imbalance and inadequacy in this field.

Guo Weimin:

Now let's invite Minister Huang Shuxian to give an introduction.

Huang Shuxian:

Friends from the media, I'd like to brief you on the major developments of civil affairs work. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Party Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core has attached great importance to people's livelihoods and civil affairs, and has made a series of important decisions and deployments. We have implemented in a comprehensive way the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and made remarkable progress in the work of safeguarding the livelihoods of people in difficulty.

First, the social assistance has been effective in guaranteeing people a basic standard of living. All people in need have been provided with subsistence allowances. Temporary assistance systems have been established comprehensively. All county-level governments have established coordination mechanisms led by the heads of local governments to secure the basic living for people with special difficulties. Subsistence security systems in rural areas have been promoted to link up with poverty alleviation and development. Urban and rural subsistence security standards have increased by 59 percent and 97 percent respectively, with an accumulated expenditure of 731.7 billion yuan. The basic living of nearly 60 million people taking subsistence security allowances and with special difficulties has been guaranteed effectively.

Second, the work in response to natural disasters has been performed efficiently and orderly. The country has activated natural disaster relief emergency responses 117 times, allocated 45.4 billion yuan of central government relief funds, provided assistance for 350 million disaster-affected people and resettled 45 million. In doing this, social stability in the disaster-stricken areas has been strengthened and the smooth operation of post-disaster rehabilitation has been safeguarded.

Third, the elderly care service industry has been accelerated. The Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly has been revised and implemented. The elderly care service market has been fully opened, the service quality has been improved, and related programs have been implemented. A series of policies and regulations have been introduced on the national ageing-related undertakings and elderly care system building in the 13th Five-year Plan. The subsidy system for the very elderly and the elderly with difficulties or disabilities has been gradually promoted throughout the country. More than 28,000 elderly care homes have been registered with nearly seven million beds. Elderly care service facilities have been made available in all the urban communities and over 50 percent of communities in rural areas.

Fourth, social welfare and children protection systems have become sounder. The system of the basic living subsidy for the disabled in difficulty and the nursing subsidy for the severely disabled has been full established, each benefiting more than 10 million people with disabilities. The care and protection system for left-behind children in the countryside has been fully built. The efforts to secure the welfare of children living in difficult circumstances have been strengthened. With these efforts, nearly 500,000 orphans and HIV-infected children have been included in the government's protection system.

Fifth, standards of preferential treatment for servicemen have been promoted in successive years. Standards of pension and subsidies for disabled servicemen, families of martyrs, servicemen who lost their lives on duty or died of illness have been continuously raised at an integrated standard in urban and rural areas. Demobilized soldiers that are eligible for job placements have taken much better positions, and the efforts to encourage them to look for jobs on their own or start up their new business have been stepped up. The management on the resettlement of retired military officers has also been continuously promoted. Therefore, the legitimate rights and interests of the people who are eligible for preferential treatment have been better secured.

Sixth, charity and voluntary service undertakings have developed vigorously. With the promulgation and implementation of the Charity Law and the Voluntary Service Ordinance, social donations have exceeded 50 billion yuan a year. Teams of professional social workers and voluntary services have been enlarging, with a total of 330,000 certificated social workers, nearly 57 million registered volunteers and 390,000 registered voluntary groups.

In addition, special assistance projects such as "Bringing Warmth in Cold Winter" have been carried out with continuing efforts. Efforts to encourage land-saving and eco-friendly cemeteries, as well as green funeral and interment have been actively promoted. Services related to marriage and adoption have also been further enriched. Moreover, our work on optimizing the administrative divisions have moved on steadily and the overall civil service support capacity has continued to increase.

Guo Weimin:

Now, let's welcome Minister Yin Weimin to deliver his briefing.

Yin Weimin:

The work of employment and social security is a major issue that has a direct bearing on people's wellbeing, drawing wide attention from society. In the report to the 19th CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping gave full affirmation to the work of employment and social security in the past five years. In terms of employment, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that employment has registered steady growth over the past five years. So what is the key mark of steady growth?

First, in the past five years we have created more than 65 million jobs. That is to say, we have resolved the employment problem of 65 million people, mainly young people.

Second, in the past five years we have solved the reemployment problem of over 27.9 million laid-off workers and the unemployed.

Third, in the past five years we have solved the employment problem of more than 8.8 million vulnerable urban residents who had difficulty finding jobs, including those people from 280,000 families where no one had a job, known as "zero-employment" families. During the process of cutting overcapacity over the past two years, we have provided effective assistance to millions of laid-off employees. At the same time, we have solved the employment problem of more than 4.8 million rural people registered as living under the poverty line. General Secretary Xi Jinping said that employment has registered steady growth, and I think the several statistics mentioned above can fully illustrate this point.

In terms of social security, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that a social security system covering both urban and rural residents has taken shape. This can be seen from the following three aspects.

First, continuous improvements have been made in building the system and institutional framework. In the past five years, we have established a unified national basic old-age insurance system for both urban and rural residents, made steady progress in reforming the pension system for employees of Party and government offices and public institutions, and solved the problem of the "double-track" pension system which has long been a concern of the people. [Under the double-track system, civil servants in government organizations and institutions don't have to pay pension premiums during their time in office, while employees in enterprises and their employers have to pay a lot.] At the same time, we have deepened the reform of the medical insurance system, and one of the breakthroughs we have made is that medical expenses can be settled where they are incurred via basic medical insurance accounts. In addition, the improvements include the establishment of some other systems.

Against a backdrop of slowing economic growth, further structural adjustments and ample labor force joining the job market, we have still made remarkable progress in ensuring employment. The progress has become a highlight of economic and social development, and has played a basic supporting role in the country's economic development.

Second, social security coverage has rapidly expanded. We have established the largest social security network in the world, with the basic old-age insurance system now covering more than 900 million people. Here, the people who are covered by the system refer to all the eligible workers as prescribed by the law and does not refer to the whole population. In other words, after the deduction of preschool children and school students, the number of people covered by the system should be around 1 billion, and therefore the coverage rate has now exceeded 90 percent. In terms of medical insurance, its network covers over 1.3 billion people, so it can be said that a nationwide medical insurance has already been achieved. In a developing country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, such a large coverage, in terms of basic old-age insurance and medical insurance, has been highly praised by the world. During the meeting held by the International Social Security Association at the end of last year, an award was specially presented to the Chinese government in honor of its outstanding achievements made in the social security sector, which is a very tough job to accomplish not only for developing countries, but also for developed countries.

Third, social security benefits have been steadily increased. In recent years, social pension benefits for participants of the basic old-age insurance have increased year by year, with the monthly average level of basic pension insurance for urban employees exceeding 2,300 yuan, and that of the basic old-age insurance for rural and non-working urban residents standing at over 120 yuan.

Meanwhile, we still face a lot of problems in employment and social security. As General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, our people face many difficulties in employment and many challenges in social security. In our next step, we will seriously implement the guiding principles of the report to the 19th CPC National Congress. Particularly in terms of employment, the report said we must strive to achieve fuller employment and create better quality jobs. In terms of social security, the report said that we will act on the policy requirements to help those most in need, to build a tightly woven safety net, and to build the necessary institutions, as we work to develop a sustainable multi-tiered social security system that covers the entire population in both urban and rural areas, with clearly defined rights and responsibilities and support that hits the right level. We will strive to do a better job in employment and social security, so that our people will have a stronger sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Guo Weimin:

Now let's welcome Minister Wang Menghui for his presentation.

Wang Menghui:

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, the housing and urban-rural development sector has seen outstanding achievements in its reform and growth. The progress made in ensuring and improving people's livelihoods has been particularly notable, and can be exemplified in the following aspects:

Firstly, outstanding achievements have been made in housing security and the living conditions were upgraded for around 80 million people in need. Over the past five years, strenuous attempts were made to advance the renovation of houses in run-down areas, helping over 60 million residents there move into apartment buildings. The supply of public-rental housing was greatly increased, accommodating more than 19 million people in need of homes. The living conditions for urban low-and-medium income households were improved substantially. Access to housing is guaranteed for almost all the urban households with subsistence allowances and urban low-income families.

Secondly, clear efforts were seen in real estate regulation, and the general real estate market remained stable. Since our basic guideline for housing is that it is for "living in," not for "speculating on," we launched categorized control and localized strategies to carry out a slew of policies observed largely by local governments to stabilize the target markets. This year, the growth of the newly-built commercial housing prices in first-tier cities and some major second-tier cities slowed down on a year-on-year basis, while the growth of the housing prices in the third- and fourth-tier cities was stable. Rental housing pilot projects have been initiated in 12 large and medium cities and the attempts to share housing ownership are encouraged in Beijing and Shanghai. A long-term real estate mechanism is under research and formulation, and efforts have been made to accelerate the enactment of rental housing laws. Real estate regulation has shown consistent effects.

Thirdly, continuous advances were made in urban planning reform, and the transformation in urban development modes was stepped up. Putting new development concepts into practice, we have carried out pilot projects on the formulation of urban planning, focusing on implementing urban plans and stepping up urban transformation. We fully implemented urban design, strengthened the preservation of historical architecture, as well as the ecological and city rehabilitation. With these efforts, city environments have been improved constantly and urban public services have been enhanced accordingly.

Fourthly, urban development has steadily improved and urban environments have become more suitable for living. During the last five years, we have built 55,400 kilometers of urban road and 1,600 kilometers of urban rail. At the same time, we have turned 458,000 hectares of land into green spaces, ensured an increase of 38.9 percent biosafety disposal capacity of municipal solid waste and witnessed the rise of sewage treatment to 92.5 percent nationwide. To add one more point, we have made large strides in developing "sponge cities" (i.e. cities which use the full potential of rain water) with the construction of underground utility tunnels extending more than 1,600 kilometers.

However, to be frank, there are still remaining problems on housing and urban-rural development - especially, as most of you would be concerned about, the demand for a house to live in. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

I'll give the floor to Madam Li Bin.

Li Bin:

Good morning, friends from the press. There will be no moderate prosperity without the overall health of the population. Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has adhered to the guiding principle of putting people first and established the initiative of a healthy China. It has thus elaborated the significance, major policies as well as goals and priority tasks of building a healthy china. Thanks to our unremitting efforts of the past five years, as outlined in General Secretary Xi Jinping's report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC, we have seen great progress in people's health and healthcare services. Here are some of the highlights:

First, we have made significant progress in the reform of the medicine and healthcare system. The essential healthcare system with Chinese characteristics has built its policy framework. The integrated tiered healthcare system has been preliminarily established. We have made allotments of medical resources with an emphasis on healthcare capacities at the community level. More than 80 percent of residents have access to the closest clinics within 15 minutes of their homes. As a general practitioner service system accessible to 430 million people has been established, the Chinese people can have their own family doctors. The Chinese people can have access to high-standard medical services close to their homes thanks to the development of medical groups and telemedicine partnership networks. The rate of residents receiving medical services in their home counties has already reached 82.5 percent. Thanks to reforms, we have abolished the old mechanism of bolstering hospital revenues by selling pharmaceuticals, which has been in place for over 60 years. We have established a new system which is more non-profit, proactive and sustainable. Over 57 percent of hospitals are now private as China has encouraged private funds. We are also addressing problems regarding the shortage of clinic drugs, low-price drugs and pediatric medications. We have set up a basic medical care system involving basic medical care, major disease insurance, a medical aid system, and an emergency response and aid system. We are also improving the insurance system so as to ensure the direct settlement of inpatient bills for offsite medical treatment. The proportion of residents' out-of-pocket payments to the total health expenditure has decreased from 40.4 percent in 2008 to below 30 percent in 2016, the lowest level in the past two decades.

Second, new progress has been made in the overall public health system. We are paying more attention to prevention and expanding free basic public healthcare services to 14 categories. We have improved the prevention and treatment of major diseases. The rate of major infectious diseases has decreased greatly. We have implemented the policy that all couples can have two children, and increased services in the obstetric and pediatric sectors. Moreover, we are providing medical care services for the entire process of childbirth to ensure mothers' and children's security. We have significantly reduced the maternal mortality rate and infant death rate, achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule.

We are making efforts to build a healthy Silk Road. We won the battle of assisting African countries in fighting against Ebola without any infection among our medical staff. China has given full play to its role as a responsible major country in global health governance.

Third, we have significantly improved the quality and level of health services. We have launched campaigns in the past three years to improve medical services. The quality of China's supply of blood has been at the forefront of the world. We have launched a national action plan over antimicrobial drug resistance and greatly reduced the use of antibiotics. We are bringing out the unique advantages of traditional Chinese medicine. We have made breakthroughs in key medical technologies and world-leading achievements in specific medical fields through a collaboration between medical treatment and teaching, which greatly improved China's overall level of diagnosis and treatment. The health poverty alleviation project has been implemented. We have assisted over 3.6 million impoverished patients under the guideline of "adjusting measures to patients and diseases." We also provided partnership medical assistance. Therefore, the level of medical treatment in impoverished areas has been improved significantly.

Generally, over the past five years since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, China has seen the biggest input into the health industry, which ensured the rapid progress in this sector and more benefits to our people. The international community also recognized China as one of the countries in the world which has made the fastest development in improving its overall healthcare services.

General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in his report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC that "a healthy population is a key mark of a prosperous nation and a strong country," and noted that we will continue to promote "the Healthy China initiative." We will be guided by Xi Jinping's Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and step up efforts to implement our mission of providing all-around services to the Chinese people in a bid to meet their increasingly diversified medical and healthcare demands. Hence, the entire Chinese population will enter a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics in a healthier manner. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

Thank you. Let's move on to the Q&A session. Please identify the media outlet you represent before raising your question.

In the battle against poverty, what has been done by civil affairs departments in terms of building up the systems of social assistance and subsistence allowances and ensuring those in need get help? What achievements have been made in this regard? Thank you.

Huang Shuxian:

Social assistance is a safety net to ensure people's well-being and to alleviate poverty. Making this net strong is a major mission of civil affairs departments and their responsibility in the battle against poverty. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has made efforts in the following three aspects.

First, improving the systems of social assistance and subsistence allowances in a holistic way.

The Interim Measures for Social Assistance promulgated by the State Council stipulates the setting up of the "eight plus one" social assistance systems. The temporary assistance system has been established throughout the country. The medical assistance system for treating major and serious diseases has been promoted nationwide. Social assistance has been delivered to people with special difficulties in urban and rural areas in a coordinated way. The subsistence allowances system has been aligned with policies for poverty alleviation and development. A system has been put in place nationwide for granting living allowances to people with disabilities in financial difficulty and nursing subsidies to people with serious disabilities. Efforts have been strengthened to ensure care and protection for rural left-behind children and to provide support for children living in difficult conditions. The institutional reform of disaster prevention, reduction and relief has been promoted. All county-level governments have put in place coordination mechanisms to secure the basic living for people with special difficulties. All of these measures constitute a safety net to meet the basic living needs of those in need.

Second, steadily promoting the level of social assistance and subsistence allowances.

Subsistence allowances in urban and rural areas have witnessed an annual average increase of 10.7 percent and 16 percent respectively. The subsidy standards for rural people with special difficulties living in care centers or their own houses have grown by an average of 13.7 percent and 14.7 percent a year respectively. The subsistence allowance in rural areas has been raised to 4,079 yuan per person per year, well above the national poverty alleviation standard of 2,952 yuan. The number of counties with a subsistence allowance lower than the national poverty alleviation standard has dropped from 1,521 at the end of 2015 to 72. Financial expenditures of governments at all levels on social assistance have increased consecutively from more than 180 billion yuan in 2012 to nearly 250 billion yuan in 2017. This year, the subsidy for people suffering major natural disasters, living assistance during the post-disaster period and allowances for the construction of destroyed houses have greatly increased or even doubled.

Third, making the management of social assistance and subsistence security more standard.

We have checked with other departments the information about recipients' hukou, vehicles, houses, deposits and securities to make our assistance more targeted. Community-level and township-level one-stop offices have been established, making it easier for the people to access government services. We have strengthened inspection, evaluation and financial supervision of social assistance work, conducted full investigations into and punished various forms of misconduct that undermine the interests of the people, especially those in real need, so as to ensure fairness and justice of social assistance work.

China Daily:

My question is addressed to Mr. Yin. As you said just now, China's economic growth has slowed down in the past few years, but there is still a large labor force to be accommodated. So, how has China managed to maintain overall stability of employment? What are the new requirements for employment in the next period according to the report of the 19th CPC National Congress? Thank you.

Yin Weimin:

As I mentioned just now, China has managed to maintain overall employment stability in the past five years. The annual increase of urban employment has been kept at more than 13 million on average, and the surveyed unemployment rate and the registered unemployment rate in urban areas remain relatively low. It is not easy to achieve such a favorable performance, especially when economic growth slows down, structural adjustment deepens and the number of workers remains high. However, it has become a basic support for economic and social development.

There are a couple of important reasons for the favorable performance. First, the CPC Central Committee attaches great importance to employment. As General Secretary Xi Jinping has made clear, employment is an eternal subject needing continuous work, as it affects numerous families, so we should spare no efforts in guaranteeing employment at all times. This is the fundamental reason.

Second, China has maintained steady and healthy economic development. Although we are now growing at a slower pace, the speed still remains at a medium-high level, which creates very good conditions for employment. Moreover, great changes have taken place in our economic structure along with economic development in recent years, especially with the tertiary industry occupying an obviously higher proportion now, which has enhanced employment markedly. The number in employment increased by around 1.5 million for every percentage point gain in GDP during the 12th five-year plan period, but the number will have to be about 1.8 million in the 13th five-year plan period, which explains why the service industry has to provide a stronger boost to employment than the second industry.

Third, employment has also benefited from the reforms. The government has been streamlining administration and delegating its powers, improving regulation and services, and promoting commercial system reform in the past five years, aiming to stimulate vitality in society and the market and facilitate employment and entrepreneurship. After commercial system reform, about 16,000 new businesses have been springing up every day, which would have been inconceivable in the past. So, with a large building-up effect, the reform has boosted employment.

Fourth, employment has also benefited from positive policies. China has been giving high priority to pursuing proactive employment policies. With continuous improvement in practice, these policies are becoming more and more favorable, and more supportive measures in employment and entrepreneurship have been issued by the government as well. China's annual fiscal investment in employment now has reached nearly 100 billion yuan, among which more than 40 billion yuan comes from the central government. This represents very strong support. And the last point is the active participation of the labor force.

Next, we will strive to achieve better performance in employment with higher quality and higher number according to the general requirements on employment in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress. It is a demanding goal that needs specific major measures if it is to be achieved. So, we will make our efforts in the following aspects:

First, we will continue giving high priority to pursuing proactive employment policies, and combining them with macroeconomic, industrial, fiscal and financial policies in particular. We will create more jobs, especially high-quality ones, during the process of economic development.

Second, we will carry out vocational skills training on a large scale to equip the labor force with abilities to change jobs and be re-employed. The contradictions in employment in the next period will lie in two aspects. On one hand, the amount of labor force will remain large. In the process of building a moderately well-off society in an all-round way in the next three years, the annual number of new jobs in urban areas will have to exceed 15 million, most of which are young students. The number of university graduates will surpass 8 million from next year on and will last at this level for some time. There will also be around 5 million graduates from secondary vocational schools and technical schools, and some from middle and high schools who will no longer continue their studies. So, the total number of new jobs needing to be created every year remains very large.

On the other hand, structural contradictions will be more prominent. The most prominent is that job-seekers are reluctant to take jobs while employers have difficulty in finding employees. It is difficult for university graduates and young students to find jobs because they look for relatively high-quality posts. It is difficult to employ production workers because they engage in hard, dirty or dangerous work. A major measure to address the structural contradiction will be vocational skills training on a large scale to equip the workers with necessary qualities and abilities.

Third, we will continue promoting employment by encouraging business start-ups. One of the reasons for the overall stability of employment in recent years is that many of the university graduates, migrant rural workers and returnees from abroad have started their own businesses. Business start-ups have a multiplier effect on employment, so we will give support to them, and we have put forward preferential policies in many aspects including loans, funding and venues to support employment by encouraging entrepreneurship.

Fourth, we will safeguard the rights and interests of workers, and an equal employment system in particular. As pointed out in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress, the barriers that block social mobility must be removed so that everyone can realize their own value through hard work. This is a critical point.

Finally, we will provide high-quality and highly efficient employment services, especially internet-based services, so that everyone with the will to work can get access to help and support from the government through the public service system. Despite the severe challenges in the coming period, we have every confidence to maintain the overall stability of employment along with the process of building a moderately well-off society in all aspects, so as to provide support for economic and social development and help maintain social stability. Thank you.

China National Radio (CNR):

China has seen rapid development in education in the past five years. At a micro level, I've seen some of my schoolmates having reached a point in life where they are going to get married and produce children; some of them have children already going to kindergarten. They may worry about how they can send their offspring to a better kindergarten, and this kind of anxiety may last until higher education. From a macro level, we've seen some data indicating that China's education is now above average among all nations in the world. What is your opinion on that? What can the Ministry of Education do to help more people enjoy a better education? Thank you.

Chen Baosheng:

China's education has indeed made great strides in the past five years. It has achieved all-round change, enjoyed systematic improvement and historic gains. What does the change imply? What does an above-average ranking mean? It means that China's education has "grown bigger," is "stronger in capacity," "improved in terms of results," and "in the upper echelons in world ranking." First, the country's large scale in education is shown by it serving 260 million students every year. "Stronger in capacity" indicates that we have achieved huge progress in restructuring to make education more balanced, equitable and better-performing. "Improved in terms of results" indicates our capacity in nurturing human resources and achieving educational high performance. This means China's overall education level is above the world average with some of our disciplines lead the world and some of our universities enjoy an outstanding overall ranking. According to some media reports, China's universities have seen a big improvement in world rankings, which, I think, is attributable to years of efforts.

China's education development can be summarized in the above four aspects. However, it does not mean it can fully meet public demand. In the past, people just wanted to have access to education; now, they want to enjoy good education, which partly shows the evolving principal contradiction facing Chinese society as pointed out in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress. You just mentioned that some people are having a hard time sending their children to kindergarten and that the fee is too high. Likewise, for compulsory education, where people have a hard time sending their children to a better school and more and more people seek a way out by sending them to study abroad at a younger age. We want more new labor force to receive senior secondary education, which is very important for a country's economic development; in higher education, everyone wants to get enrolled in a better college and study in a better major. People now demand more quality education, and this is the problem we are facing.

Then, how to solve this problem? The guiding principles of the 19th CPC National Congress are that we strengthen education, speed up modernization and develop a system with which people are satisfied. The key is to provide more preferential policies towards rural areas, to help badly built or poorly operated schools, to impoverished areas and to groups with various difficulties.

As for our key tasks, we must first, as General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in his report, give priority to overall education. Second, we must promote the coordinated development of compulsory education in urban and rural areas. Third, we have to improve the system of vocational education and training, and promote integration between industry and education and cooperation between enterprises and colleges. Fourth, we need to see that the vast majority of the new members of the urban and rural labor force have received senior secondary education, and that more receive higher education, which is crucial to avoiding the "middle income trap." Fifth, we have to strengthen professional ethics and competence of teachers, and encourage public respect for educators and public support for education. Sixth, we must improve the system of financial aid to students and ensure that no child drops out because of family financial difficulties. Seventh, we have to establish a life-long learning system and improve continuing education, which means that we will step up efforts to build a learning society and promote the well-rounded development of all our people. If all of the above targets are achieved, we are literally delivering a great bonus to the general public.

First, the proportion of eligible children enrolled in kindergarten will be increased from today's 77.4 percent to 85 percent by 2020. The proportion of kindergartens that provide inclusive services will account for over 80 percent of all preschool education from today's 60 percent.

Second, compulsory education will be more balanced, standardized and integrated in both urban and rural areas. We will try to tackle problems like "top school overheating" and "big class size." By 2020, there will be no "big-sized class" in schools. We will work to relieve students from a heavy workload in and out of the school. This is the bonus for compulsory education.

Third, we will make senior secondary education universally available. By 2020, the proportion of eligible students enrolled into senior secondary education will reach over 90 percent. Enrollment in higher education will increase from today's 42.7 percent to 50 percent, which means that higher education is roughly available for everyone.

Fourth, it is very important to improve teacher competence and education quality in order to nurture capable young people to join the socialist cause. Therefore, we will work out suggestions on strengthening the competence of teachers and formulate related policy measures to motivate teachers' initiative in education.


I notice that the report delivered at the opening of the 19th CPC National Congress read: "We should make steady progress in ensuring people's access to childcare, education, employment, medical services, elderly care, housing and social assistance" in a part about ensuring and improving living standards. This is a statement related to all of you officials present today and concerns all aspects of people's livelihood. What do you think are the hardest nuts to crack in your sphere of work mentioned in the statement? I also notice that the report sets many new goals. What are the goals that can be met in the short term? For the common people, what benefits can they expect now to improve their livelihood?

Chen Baosheng:

Ensuring people's access to childcare and education is of great importance. As for the "hard nuts" in this regard, I think there are three. The first concerns the three-year preschool education I just mentioned. China aims to increase its gross enrollment rate in three-year kindergarten education to 85 percent and the proportion of kindergartens open to all children to 80 percent by 2020. Why is this a hard nut? It is because even if these two goals are met, the problem of difficult and expensive kindergarten access is still not thoroughly solved. In addition, the two-child policy will increase the number of new births every year. The second hard nut is curbing the number of dropouts from compulsory education. It is especially a hard nut in ethnic, remote and poor areas because some students in these areas are not forced to leave school but choose to do so for lack of interest in schooling. Therefore, how to solve the problem in accordance with China's Compulsory Education Law so that dropouts' interest in schooling is aroused and the rate of compulsory education is increased to 95 percent from the current 93.4 percent is quite a big hard nut to crack. The third hard nut concerns the establishment of an enrollment system through a college entrance examination with Chinese characteristics by 2020. We will work to see the system is established and with it introduce a series of measures for institutional reform.

Li Bin:

I will answer your second question. General Secretary Xi Jinping has put forth a series of requirements for carrying out the healthy China initiative. Going forward, we will put the strategy in place. As for the hard nut to crack in ensuring people's access to medical services, it is mainly about addressing the issues arising from the new principal contradiction facing the Chinese society in health care, which is, to be specific, the contradiction between people's new needs for medical and health care and the country's unbalanced and inadequate supply of medical service. As you all know, China's best medical resources are mainly concentrated in big cities and cities with a relatively developed economy. How to address this unbalance? Next we will promote the transfer of medical resources to cities at the lower rungs of the ladder and expand the reach of advantageous medical resources to regions where such access is difficult. The work will be done through deepening the reform of the medical and health care system and through our new mechanism featuring multiple forms of consortiums composed of different tiers of hospitals.

On the one hand, we will continue to introduce medical resources into poor areas, including border and ethnic areas. For example, we will continue to send groups of medics to Xinjiang and Tibet and help the poorest counties. So far we have established long-acting mechanisms for pairing up all the 834 designated poverty-stricken counties with medical resources through remote health care and sending groups of medics there.

On the other hand, we will help train medics in poverty-stricken areas free of charge, including incubating college students majoring in medical science, to enhance the quality and quantity of medics in those areas.

What are the benefits we have prepared for the common people to improve their livelihood in the near future? We will next expand the scope of contracted services by family doctors as part of our intensified efforts to ensure people's livelihood. Just as I mentioned a moment ago, currently 430 million people have access to contracted services by family doctors and we will continue to expand the scope, especially to include all the poor people. Poor families, families with members suffering from chronic diseases and elderly families will be given priorities in the process.

We will continue to implement the action plan for improving medical services and promote the widespread implementation of people-benefiting measures such as the doctor-appointment service, remote medical care and ambulatory surgery. We will further weave the network for ensuring basic medical care to make it stronger and tighter and see that medical expenses are settled in places of treatment for migrant workers and those starting a business or engaging in innovation even if their insurances are registered elsewhere. We will intensify efforts to reduce poverty through improving health care standards and include more diseases in an intensive campaign to treat those suffering from them. Currently nine major diseases are covered in the campaign. For areas suffering from deep poverty, we will concentrate our efforts on overcoming the hardest issues so that people living there will not become poor or become poor again because of disease. We will improve the quality and efficiency of basic public health services so as to prevent diseases. While doing this, we will prioritize the improvement of health care services for women and children and especially address the weak links such as the shortage of doctors in pediatrics, obstetrics and anesthetics. We will further increase healthcare benefits to the people by enhancing the ability of grassroots medical institutions to provide services, incentivizing medics and deepening institutional reform. Thank you.

Yin Weimin:

I will answer your question from the perspective of ensuring people's access to elderly care. Having something to fall back on is the biggest aspiration of all senior citizens. China has entered a period when its population is rapidly aging. By the end of last year, the number of people aged 60 and above exceeded 230 million, accounting for 16.7 percent of the total population. The number of people aged 65 and above has surpassed 150 million, accounting for 10.8 percent of the total population. In the next period of time, the aged population will continue to expand at a faster speed and for a long peak of time. Therefore, almost all people are concerned about access to elderly care.

To ensure people's access to elderly care by improving social security, we have two hard nuts to crack, or hard issues. The first issue is how to expand the scope of the old-age insurance scheme to cover the entire nation. As I mentioned just now, the old-age insurance scheme has covered more than 90 percent of the population, but since China has a big population, the remaining 10 percent means 100 million people, which is almost the population of a big country. How to include them in the old-age insurance scheme? Who are they? They fall into three categories: the first category is people with flexible employment; the second category is people in new forms of business. New forms of business like the internet industry and the express delivery industry are flourishing in China. The third category is employees of small- and medium-sized enterprises, especially migrant workers, who are the main body of the category. Since those three categories are not completely covered by the old-age insurance scheme, they may face a lack of basic social security when getting old. How to include them is a major hard issue we will focus on.

The second hard issue is how to sustain the old-age insurance fund. When we first established the old-age insurance system, the ratio of insurers against pensioners was 5:1, and now it has fallen to 2.8:1 as the population ages more. Going forward, the ratio will drop further as the aging trend is still evident, posing severe challenges to the old-age insurance fund, putting it under great pressure to pay retirees and sustain itself. Therefore, we must think of ways to ensure sustainable development of the old-age insurance system.

These are the two hardest issues facing us.

Are there measures to address the issue? Yes. Ever since the third plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, we've carried out a reform of the old-age insurance system and formed a master plan. That is to say, we've finished the top-level design and now we are phasing it in. To solve the first hard issue, we will, as mentioned in the report delivered at the opening of the 19th CPC National Congress, see that everyone has access to social security. The scheme for doing this will register detailed information about all those still not included and then persuade them to join it.

To solve the second hard issue, we have many measures planned. I will list a few here: First, we will, acting on the report delivered at the opening of the 19th CPC National Congress, start to bring pension schemes under national unified management next year. We will put in place a system for central government coordination of pensions to balance the burdens on different regions. China has a vast territory, so development varies from region to region and so does the degree of the population aging. For example, the ratio of insurers against pensioners is lowest in Heilongjiang at 1.3:1 and the highest is seen in Guangdong at 9:1. After the national unified management is introduced, the law of large numbers governing social security will work toward mutual help among different regions. Now, the pension fund has a surplus of over 400 billion yuan every year and the aggregate surplus is over 4 trillion yuan, an amount able to fund the payment for 16 months. But considering the differences among provincial regions, we need to take the first step in introducing the national unified management as soon as possible as required by the report.

Second, we will improve the investment and operation of the pension fund. Eight provinces, as approved by the State Council, have entrusted the National Council for Social Security Fund to invest more than 400 billion yuan from their pension funds to maintain and increase their value.

Third, we will replenish the pool of social security funds with state-owned assets.

These are some of the measures we are considering to address the second hard issue in the near future. We also have measures for the long term and will roll them out when they mature with a view to sustaining the pension scheme so that all the people have access to social security in old age.

Phoenix Satellite TV:

Since last September, a string of policies have been rolled out to control the development of the real estate market. By now, the market has cooled down notably all over the country. How do you understand the current market situation? What long-term mechanisms will be launched? Thank you.

Wang Menghui:

I talked about this issue in my opening remarks. Since last October, following the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we have worked with other government departments to exercise category-based regulation of the real estate market. Policies were formulated according to the specific conditions of each region and city, and targeted measures undertaken. We have ensured that local governments will shoulder the primary responsibilities in this regard.

These efforts have yielded positive results in curbing speculation and investment, as well as in guiding people's reasonable demand in buying homes. Presently, the overall market remains stable and healthy.

Please allow me to explain this in detail.

First, the growth rate of the sales of commercial buildings has declined steadily. On a year-on-year basis, the growth rate in the first two months this year was 25.1 percent, while the figure of the first nine months dropped to 10.3 percent. In particular, the growth rate of the sales of commercial residential buildings dropped from 23.7 percent to 7.6 percent.

Second, the trend of rapid price rises has been curbed. Regarding the price of newly-built commercial residential buildings, statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that, by August, year-on-year growth had dropped for 11 consecutive months in first-tier cities and nine consecutive months in second-tiered cities respectively, while the figure dropped 0.3 percentage points in third-tier cities. Regarding the price of newly-built commercial residential buildings in 16 major cities, the month-on-month growth rate declined in the majority, and remained flat in the rest. The growth rate in all the 16 cities declined on a year-on-year basis. We estimate that, in the fourth quarter, the growth rate of sales will decline further nationwide, and the price will remain basically flat. For the whole year, the real estate market will maintain stable performance.

As the next step, we will commit to fulfilling our regulation goals, and will maintain the continuity and consistency of policies. In particular, we will follow General Secretary Xi's instructions to ensure houses are for living in, not for speculation, and establish a housing system that ensures supply through multiple sources, provide housing support through multiple channels, and encourages both housing purchase and renting. Thank you.

Lianhe Zaobao:

The second of the "two centenary goals" specified in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress provided a detailed description of what China will be like in 2049. My question is for all the ministers. What do you expect to see in 2049 in your particular field, such as education and the real estate market?

Chen Baosheng:

This is a good question. It needs talent to foresee the future. What we expect showcases our confidence and belief. I hope China's education will show the following features by 2049.

First, it will lead the global trend. By 2049, China's educational standard might be taken as the international standard.

Second, China will be the top choice among countries taking overseas students. More countries will likely desire to conduct cultural exchanges with China. More foreign teachers and students will come to China to learn our experiences, and share their own with us, seeking common progress.

Third, China will have a bigger say in the world regarding how to promote education. I'm sure we will spare no efforts to offer our distinct solutions and share our wisdom.

Fourth, text books in the Chinese language will be more widely used in the world.

Besides, I hope that all Chinese people can enjoy the right to receive education, and all their aspirations in education can be fulfilled, so that they can seek free, comprehensive development.

That's what I hope for 2049. Thank you.

Wang Menghui:

What you mentioned coincides with the focus of our research work in the next stage.

From my personal view, when the goal of fully building a modern socialist country is achieved by the middle of this century, we should ensure that the living environment and living conditions of the Chinese people are the most advanced in the world. In other words, we should achieve the goal of "meeting the housing needs of all of our people" set in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress.

And that is not all. We should also ensure that people can live in a beautiful environment, which means we must achieve the goal of "building a beautiful China". Besides, we should ensure that the living facilities are more convenient and complete. This will enable Chinese people to live a happier life with a stronger sense of fulfillment. Thank you.

The Paper:

Ordinary people care most about the practical results of reforms. As for the comprehensive reform of public hospitals, which has hardly been pushed by the country in recent years, what real benefits has it brought to ordinary people in terms of healthcare services? Thank you.

Li Bin:

You proposed a question that evaluates reform by putting people first. People's health is the basis and important symbol of a good life. In this sense, healthcare services are a major livelihood issue as well as being our political responsibility in practicing the guiding principle of putting people first. It is from such a starting point that we have taken the reform of public hospitals as the key section to solve in regard to problems with the healthcare services. We have been adhering to a program of focusing on difficulties and solving problems.

Through deepening reform, five sustained and positive results have been achieved as follows:

First, the comprehensive service capability has continued to increase. As medical resources have increased significantly, by the end of 2016, the number of medical and health institutions has reached 980,000, with medical and healthcare staff totaling over 11 million. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the number of licensed (assistant) doctors per 1,000 head of population has increased from 1.8 to 2.3, and number of registered nurses and beds per 1,000 persons rose from 1.5 to 2.5, and 3.6 to 5.4, respectively. We have been able to create more adequate basic conditions to serve the people.

The community-level medical and health service network covering urban and rural areas has been basically completed, becoming more accessible and convenient for residents in seeking healthcare services. In 2016, 7.9 billion persons/times received healthcare treatment, which is unique in the world. This shows our people can seek immediate medical care when getting sick. The volume of services in grassroots medical institutions has exceeded 55 percent. It indicates that, although in the past, there were fewer patients visiting grassroots clinics, it is changing now.

With improvements in the work at grassroots level and in areas of weakness, substantial progress has been made in the equitable allocation of healthcare resources. Presently, 90 percent of public hospitals nationwide are involved in the reform involving establishment of different forms of partnerships between medical institutions operating at different levels, and more than 6,800 public hospitals now offer long-distance healthcare services. Today, hospitals in Beijing can offer services to farmers and herdsmen in the remotest corners of the grasslands. The supply of personnel specializing in pediatrics, obstetrics, general practice, rehabilitation and nursing has been increased through multiple channels. Services at the grassroots level and in remote areas have been greatly improved. These have laid the foundation for achieving the goal of providing quality-based and efficient healthcare services as set out in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress.

Second, people's medical expenditures have been constantly reduced. The coverage of basic health insurance has been maintained at a rate above 95 percent, and the reimbursable ratio has been raised. We have promoted the coordination of basic health insurance with major disease insurance, medical aid, emergency aid and commercial insurance, thus building a comprehensive network of medical security.

Third, services that bring benefits and convenience to the people are being constantly introduced. We have improved medical services accessibility, making it more convenient to see a doctor. All the Grade-III hospitals can provide doctor-appointment service and quality nursing service, and many of these hospitals can conduct ambulatory surgeries. A total of 86 percent of hospitals now acknowledge each other's medical test results. Some hospitals have put in place real-time payment and smart pharmacy systems, shortening the time before being able to see a doctor. The application of the internet, big data, cloud computing and other technologies also make it more convenient for people to access to medical services. There has been a significant increase in the types of medicine provided by hospitals and pharmacies at the community level. Long-term prescriptions, such as those covering two months, is allowed for patients with a chronic disease so that they don't need to go to hospital repeatedly. Some patients with common diseases have been guided to community-level hospitals, effectively relieving the burden of big hospitals.

Fourth, the quality of medical services has been constantly enhanced. The medical service quality management system has been improved, and a control network has been established. Over 1,200 clinical pathways covering almost all common diseases have been developed and put into use at nearly 7,000 hospitals. Measures have been taken to ensure clinical medication in accordance with due procedures. The proportion of antibacterial drugs has decreased by 50 percent. Many county hospitals are able to conduct complicated surgeries such as removing brain tumors, thus enabling more patients at county-level to see doctors locally.

Fifth, people's health has been constantly improved. I have elaborated on this aspect just now.

I used the word "constantly," as our reforms are still underway. Outdated systems have been scrapped, but new ones are not yet in fully-fledged operation. Medical services have been improved, but there are still many problems causing public concern. The problem of unbalanced development needs to be solved and some areas of weakness, such as lack of professionals in rural and remote areas, need to be strengthened. We will make efforts to address all these problems.

China Education Television, China Education Network Television (CENTV):

My question is for Minister Chen. We all know that pushing forward the education reform involves many difficulties. What's the next step for reforming the education system? What measures will be taken?

Chen Baosheng:

Before answering your questions, I would like to first introduce three concepts. The reform of education is different from other reforms, as it has unique characteristics. Firstly, just like education, the education reform is also a slow variable. Why? A certain measure for example would only become effective after at least three years as the newly enrolled students should study at school for at least three years. Secondly, every measure we take to reform education is directly related to the people. It's hence actually the reform of the people. This point is very important. Thirdly, the reform of education involves many aspects, attracting attention from schools, society, families, principals, teachers, students and parents. And the evaluation criterion is diversified.

The General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council of China have promulgated the "Opinions on Deepening Reform of the Education System," setting up basic principles for the reform in this regard. As I just introduced, the reform policies of college entrance examination have already been published. The reform of senior secondary education will focus on improving the quality, and related plans have been unveiled. As for compulsory education, according to the Compulsory Education Law, the reform will revolve around balanced development and urban-rural integrated development, as well as improving the quality and reducing students' academic burden by modifying exam-oriented education. Besides, we have policies to guide the reform of pre-school education. The reform covers every stage of education, from pre-school to college, and related policies have all been approved by the central government.

As another major part of the reform, China's educational cooperation and exchanges with other countries will be improved under the guidance of published policies, in a bid to further open the education sector. The main frame of reform in all fields with "multiple pillars" has been established.

As mentioned just now, the education reform has entered the stage of full-scale implementation and inside adjustment. "Full-scale implementation" means the present reform plans are all being well carried out, while "inside adjustment" refers to adjusting those crucial reform plans which have made faster progress. Take the reform of college entrance examination as an example. Three years have passed since its implementation; now we focus on addressing the problems which have emerged in pilot areas. Step by step, we will forge ahead with the education reform to provide effective institutional safeguards for modernizing Chinese education and building the country into an educational powerhouse. Thanks.

Guo Weimin:

This ends today's press conference. Thank you.

By Li Xiaohua, Guo Xiaohong, Wang Qian, Chen Xia, Huang Shan, Li Jingrong, Wu Jin, Gong Yingchun, Zhou Jing, Zhang Liying, Zhang Jiaqi, Guo Yiming, Yuan Fang, Li Huiru, Xu Lin, Wang Wei, He Shan, Layne Flower, Christopher Georgiou, Geoffrey Murray

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