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Social Security System Takes Shape: Official
Minister of Labor and Social Security Zhang Zuoji said Wednesday that China has basically developed a market-oriented employment mechanism and the framework of social security system has been initially established.

Zhang told a news conference on the sidelines of the on-going First Sessions of the 10th National People's Congress and the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference that China has made considerable progress in improving its social security system.

He said that major achievements in this respect include:

-- A major labor restructuring during the transition from a planned economy to a market one has been basically completed;

-- Efforts have been made to provide basic living means to people with difficulties;

-- The pension system has been continuously improved;

-- The traditional labor protection medicare and free medicare systems have been replaced with a basic medicare insurance system;

-- The pilot project for improving social security system in Liaoning Province has made breakthrough;

-- Employment policies are being actively formulated;

-- Diversified financing channels have been developed to reinforce social insurance funds; and,

-- More and more people have been covered by social insurance.

Zhang Zuoji said that this year China will make efforts to create more than 8 million new jobs, about half of which will be offered to laid-off workers.

Statistics show that from 1998 to 2000, China's registered unemployment rate in urban areas remained at 3.1 percent, while it was 3.6 percent for 2001 and 4 percent for 2002, rising steadily though still lower than the targeted line.

Over the past five years over 80 million farmers have gone to cities to find jobs, Zhang said.

Meanwhile, according to information obtained from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, this year China's civil affairs departments will gradually promote the building of a minimum living insurance system in rural areas. By the end of 2002, 4.04 million people in rural areas have enjoyed minimum living subsidies.

Zhang said that efforts will be made to expand the number of social insurance beneficiaries.

He said that within this year, beneficiaries of China's pension system will be increased from 130 million to 150 million; while that of the unemployment insurance system will be increased from approximately 100 million to 110 million; and that of the medicare insurance system will be increased from 90 million to 100 million.

He also said that the pension for the retired had been increased from 415 yuan a month in 1997 to 627 yuan a month in 2002. But he acknowledged that the time is not mature for adopting a national farmers' social insurance system.

The number of people receiving unemployment insurance had risen from 580,000 in December 1998 to 4.4 million in December 2002, and over the past five years 12 million people enjoyed unemployment insurance, said Zhang.

Zhang said that the government plans to put in more to promote employment, and in this year's budget, 4.7 billion yuan is earmarked for promoting employment in western areas and traditional industrial bases, in addition to fiscal subsidies to social security fund and laid-off workers.

(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2003)

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