A senior civil affairs official Thursday said that more efforts will be taken to improve the quality of life for the country's 130 million elderly citizens, a figure greater than that for any other country in the world.
A priority of the Ministry of Civil Affairs is to reform and improve the social security system in order to ensure all retired people receive their pensions on time, said Minister Doji Cering.
In addition, special allowances will be given to people of advanced age, normally those over 80, the minister said.
Only people over 100 years of age get an allowance from local civil affair authorities at present. It varies from region to region, the highest being over 100 yuan (US$12.10) and the lowest less than 20 yuan (US$2.40) per month.
Doji Cering gave a clear-cut definition of what constitutes "a quality life for the elderly." He said it should include material well-being and cultural fulfillment, as well as good health and living conditions.
Systematic work will be needed to achieve this.
"China has done much to improve the life of its elderly people, which has been widely recognized by elderly people themselves," the minister told a national conference in Beijing.
"But with the country's steady economic growth, China has greater capacity to provide a better life for its senior citizens," the minister said.
A just completed national spot survey indicates that around 60 percent of the country's aged population feel their life has "improved, with enhanced economic security," since the end of 1980s, when the country adopted its reform and opening-up policies.
"The country's employment situation should not be allowed to affect support for the elderly," said the minister.
The country's deep-going economic reform has been squeezing out underdog enterprises, leaving many retired people without their pensions, because the country's old pension system hinged on enterprises, not the government or society, providing support for retired staff.
A national survey indicates that over 60 percent of the country's elderly people are not included in any social security scheme, the ministry revealed.
However, the survey found more than half of the elderly people questioned felt secure about their health. And 62.3 percent of them enjoy welfare medical services provided by the government, with only 10 percent complaining about difficulty in visiting a doctor.
(China Daily June 28, 2002)