IV. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

In 2003, adhering to the principle of putting people first, the Chinese government made new efforts to promote the all-round development of the urban and rural areas, regions, economy and society, and to enhance the people's economic, social and cultural rights. These efforts were crowned with marked success.

Emphasizing employment as the basis of people's livelihood, the Chinese government has made positive efforts to establish a responsibility system for employment and re-employment, formulating mutually supporting policies, creating job opportunities, increasing fund input, and improving employment services, so as to provide a fairly adequate guarantee for people's right to work.

In 2003, the central government appropriated an additional special subsidy of 4.7 billion yuan to support employment and re-employment, which greatly increased employment. At the end of 2003, there were 744.32 million people in employment in China, 6.92 million more than the number at the end of 2002. They included 256.39 million urban people, an increase of 8.59 million from the previous year. In 2003, 4.4 million people laid off from state-owned enterprises were re-employed. At the end of 2003, the nationwide registered urban unemployment rate was 4.3 percent.

To guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of people sustaining work-related injuries, in 2003 the Chinese government strengthened its efforts and increased financial input for legislation and law enforcement in the field of labor security.

Regulations were formulated and promulgated, such as the Regulations on Insurance for Work-related Injuries, and supplementary regulations such as the Procedures for Confirming Work-related Injuries, Measures for Casualty Compensation Paid in One Lump Sum by Illegal Employers, and Regulations on Identification of Dependents of Employees Who Incurred Work-related Death.

Coverage of insurance for work-related injuries has been extended to include enterprises of all types throughout China, as well as private businesses with hired workers. It is clearly stipulated that all employers in urban and rural areas alike shall sign for the insurance scheme on work-related injuries to guarantee that employees receive timely medicare and compensation when they are injured in accidents on the job or when they contract occupational diseases, thus promoting the prevention of work-related injuries and vocational rehabilitation.

Social security has been improved. The newly amended Constitution stipulates clearly, "The state establishes and improves a social security system compatible with the level of economic development."

In 2003, the central government spent 70 billion yuan, 19.9 percent more than the previous year, to ensure that the basic living allowances for laid-off employees from state-owned enterprises and pensions for retired employees from enterprises were paid on time and in full, and to guarantee the issuance of basic living allowances to laid-offs from state-owned enterprises, the access to unemployment insurance, and the implementation of the scheme of a minimum standard of living for urban residents.

Of the 70 billion yuan, 9.2 billion yuan were used for subsidizing urban residents for a minimum standard of living, as compared to 4.6 billion yuan spent in the previous year. According to statistics, in 2003 154.9 million people nationwide enjoyed basic old-age insurance, 7.54 million more than in the previous year; basic pensions issued totaled 313.1 billion yuan, which basically ensured that retirees from enterprises received their pensions on time and in full.

There were 29.33 million retirees from enterprises covered by socialized management and services, accounting for 84.5 percent of the total, and an increase of 41 percentage points over the previous year. Nearly 60 million people have been covered by the rural old-age insurance scheme, and close to 1.4 million farmers were paid pensions.

At the end of 2003, there were 108.95 million people around China covered by medical insurance, an increase of 14.95 million as compared with the figure at the end of 2002; 103.73 million people covered by unemployment insurance, an increase of 1.91 million; 45.73 million people covered by work-related injury insurance, an increase of 1.67 million; and 36.48 million people covered by child-bearing insurance, an increase of 1.6 million.

There were 4.15 million people enjoying unemployment insurance benefits, 250,000 fewer than in the previous year; 1.95 million laid-off employees from state-owned enterprises registered at the re-employment service centers, 1.44 million fewer than in the previous year, all of them having received their basic living allowances on time and in full and had their social insurance fees paid.

In total, 22.35 million urban residents throughout China received minimum standard of living allowances from the government, an increase of 1.7 million over the previous year.

The state attaches great importance to the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of migrant workers from rural areas. In 2003, the State Council issued the Notice on Properly Carrying Out the Work of Management and Services for Rural Migrant Workers in Urban Areas, which clearly provides for handling the issues concerning rural migrant workers in urban areas, delayed wage payment to those workers, schooling of their children, improvement of their working and living conditions, and job training for them.

The government launched a special campaign to protect rural migrant workers' rights and interests around the country. This campaign, aimed at protecting the labor rights and interests of rural migrant workers, included distributing free Manual of Protection of Laborers' Rights; setting up hotlines for their complaints; solving the problems of delayed wage payment, poor working environment and faulty social security; and guaranteeing wage payment on time and in full. The fact that the Premier of the State Council personally ordered the payment of rural migrant workers' arrears of wage vividly reflects the government's great concern about the problem of failure to pay rural migrant workers' wages and the protection of their rights and interests. According to statistics, from November 2003 to February 2004, a total of over 24 billion yuan of overdue wages was paid to rural migrant workers.

The state protects farmers' legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the law. In 2003, the state promulgated the newly amended Law of the People's Republic of China on Agriculture, thus strengthening efforts in guaranteeing farmers' rights and interests. The chapter "Protection of Farmers' Rights and Interests" in the Law on Agriculture stipulates clearly that farmers' right to contractual operation of land shall not be infringed upon, and that such activities as qualification, upgrading and checking, equal sharing out of tax payment, imposing illegal education charges on farmers, and holding back or diverting compensation fees for requisitioned land are forbidden.

At the same time, it standardizes the procedures for raising funds and recruiting rural labor, and provides corresponding administrative or judicial aid measures to be taken when farmers' rights and interests are infringed upon. The Law on Rural Land Contracts, effective as of last year, furnishes farmers with a long-term, guaranteed land-use right, and clearly describes their legal rights to the use of contracted land, to proceeds from the land, to the transfer of the contracted operation right, to independent organization of production and disposal of products, to inheritance of the proceeds from contracted operation, and to proper compensation when the contracted land is requisitioned in accordance with the law. Special provisions have been made to protect female farmers' right to contract land.

At present, China is drafting a Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Farmers' Rights and Interests, which will go a step further toward providing all-round legal protection to farmers' rights and interests.

In 2003, the central and local governments made a series of decisions aimed at encouraging farmers to increase their incomes and become prosperous. The state adopted various measures, including sci-tech training for farmers, establishment of a sci-tech service system in rural areas, and aid to the impoverished through sci-tech development. Great amounts of manpower and funds were put into the work to help farmers shake off poverty and attain prosperity.

To reduce farmers' burdens, the government has carried out a reform of rural taxation. Taxes on agricultural specialties other than tobacco will gradually be cancelled. From 2004, the rate of agricultural tax will be reduced yearly by more than one percentage point until it is cancelled five years later.

In the meantime, the government will take further steps to increase input in public welfare undertakings in rural areas, solving the difficulties in rural children's access to primary and secondary school education and in farmers' medicare; to speed up the reform of the rural economic system, increase input in agricultural infrastructure, improve rural production and living conditions and promote the development of the agricultural economy; to comprehensively solve the issues of farmers' old-age pension and insurance according to the minimum standard of living scheme for city residents; to reform the household registration system in rural areas and protect farmers' right to migration and choice of work.

On February 8, 2004 the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council promulgated the Proposals on Several Policies to Increase Farmers' Incomes, which clearly provides for readjustment of the agricultural structure, expansion of farmers' employment, promotion of sci-tech progress, deepening of rural reform, increase of agricultural input, and strengthening of support and protection for agriculture according to the demands of comprehensive economic and social development in urban and rural areas, and in pursuit of the principle of "giving more, taking less, and being flexible."

These measures, aimed at increasing farmers' incomes at a higher speed, and reversing the trend of widening the gap between urban and rural residents' incomes as soon as possible, fully embody the Chinese Government's determination to protect farmers' rights and interests. They are bound to bring blessing to the country's 900 million farmers.

The state puts great efforts into the development of education, to ensure citizens' right to receive education. From 1997 to 2002, appropriations for education nationwide increased by 59 billion yuan annually on average, at a yearly rate of increase as high as 16.7 percent.

In 2002, the total input in education nationwide was 548 billion yuan, and the proportion of the government's financial appropriation for education in the GDP increased from 3.19 percent in 2001 to 3.41 percent, representing the highest increase since 1989.

According to statistics, 2,478 counties (cities and districts) in China have basically introduced nine-year compulsory education and eliminated illiteracy among young and middle-aged people, of which number 51 were added in 2003.

Meanwhile, the national illiteracy rate among young and middle-aged people shrank to below five percent. In 2003, the UIS of UNESCO published the latest statistics on the elimination of illiteracy worldwide in the past decade, which shows that among the 40 countries surveyed, China had made the greatest achievements in this field.

In 2003, ordinary institutions of higher learning around China admitted 3.822 million students and 269,000 graduate students, 617,000 and 66,000 more than in the previous year, respectively.

The state is speeding up cultural restructuring to promote cultural development. In 2003, the Regulations on Public Cultural and Sporting Facilities officially went into effect. A number of key basic cultural projects were completed, and some public cultural facilities were built, rebuilt or expanded, including libraries, museums, cultural centers, cinemas, theaters and music halls.

According to statistics, from 1998 to 2002, total appropriations for cultural undertakings in China reached 32.42 billion yuan, 2.7 times that during the period of the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1991-1995). In 2002, there were 972 projects of fixed assets investment in the cultural sectors around the country, with completed investment totaling 3.09 billion yuan. In 2003, the appropriation from the central budget for cultural undertakings totaled 537 million yuan, a record figure in China.

At the end of 2003, there were 2,587 art troupes, 2,892 cultural centers, 2,708 public libraries and 1,519 museums in China. In the same year, 140 feature films and 61 films on science and education, documentaries and animated cartoons were produced. These developments have met the demands of the people for cultural life.