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Labor and Social Security Minister on Rural Medicare
China will establish a complete rural cooperative medicare system and poor farmers who have difficulties in seeking medical care will be subsidized. The system will be in comprehensive operation by 2010.

Minister Zhang Zuoji of Labor and Social Security made the remark at a news conference Monday in Beijing on the sideline of the 16th CPC National Congress. The decision was made at a State Council meeting on rural health held before the Party congress opened, revealed Zhang. Under the medicare system, each of the farmers, who have difficulties in seeking medical care, will receive some subsidies, some from the central governmentís budgets and some from local budgets.

Beside the medicare system, China will strive to build a wide social security network for its big rural population, Zhang said.

Yet, due to the vastness of the countryís territory and the uneven economic development in different places, China faces a number of difficulties in establishing a sound social security system in its countryside.

The household-contract responsibility system, which has been widely adopted in the rural areas, is based on the traditional concept that land is the guarantee of rural residents, their livelihood and security. Yet while China is becoming a country with a great number of senior people and the family size is becoming smaller, the land can no longer work well to support those who rely on it, especially for those elderly. In some economically developed rural areas, pension insurance has become popular.

The rural old-age pension system was introduced in 1991, but it still operates on a voluntary basis. The fund is made up mainly of money contributed by rural individuals, with certain supports from local communities. Up to now, 60 million farmers have participated in the pension scheme with an accumulation of 21.5 billion yuan, and 1.08 million rural residents have been benefited, Zhang pointed out.

Jiang Zeminís report to the 16th CPC National Congress has made clear that China will establish systems of old-age pensions, medical insurance and subsistence allowances in rural areas, wherever conditions permit. To build a well-off society, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security is now considering setting up pension insurance for rural residents who have entered cities for jobs, those whose land has been made into other uses by the government, and the residents who have newly transformed from rural to non-rural registration. The insurance will eventually cover all the rural population.

During the news conference, Minister Zhang Zuoji also briefed about the countryís labor and social security system as well as the reemployment situation of laid-off workers. The continuing economic restructuring will incur mounting unemployment pressure, he said, but this issue has always been given priority and the government will take further measures to solve the problems, including widening the funding channels for social security fund, training laid-off workers and taking preferential policies, such as tax exemption and fee reduction, for laid-off workers who try to start their own businesses.

He concluded that the market-oriented employment mechanism and the social security framework compatible with Chinese economy have been initially established and a series of fundamental historic changes have taken place in the field of labor and social security after 10 years of reform.

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Guo Xiaohong, November 13, 2002)

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