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Welfare Law to Guard Benefits

China is set to draft a new social security law in the next few years, which will be the biggest legal step ever made covering medical insurance, pensions and unemployment benefits. It will cover workers in State-owned firms, which are undergoing major restructuring schemes to help them meet global competition.

Chen Gang, a senior official with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, said yesterday that a draft of the law has already been drawn up and is expected to be submitted to the State Council for review before June.

"After discussions and review by the central government, the draft will be handed over to the top legislature for approval," said Chen. "It will come out in the next few years."

The social security law has become one of the top priorities for the National People's Congress, the top legislature, according to Chen.

If all goes well, workers in State-owned firms,which Chinese workers have long relied on for cradle-to-grave welfare benefits, will have their interests better protected by law, said Han Feng, a senior official in charge of pensions in China.

"We have initiated a lot of policies and supporting measures to help unemployed and retired workers from State-owned firms.

"Many of them have had trouble getting benefits as their employers have withheld payments because there are no proper laws to regulate them," said Han.

This lack of proper laws has resulted in poor delivery of pensions, unemployment payments and medical healthcare in the last few years.

To solve this problem, the government is phasing in reforms so pensions, medical care and unemployment schemes are supported jointly by the State, State-owned firms and workers themselves.

This will allow State-owned firms to reform while it will make sure citizens have access to benefits.

(China Daily 04/27/2001)

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