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Social Security Umbrella Shelters Poor

China has spread its social security umbrella over most urban poor and an increasing number of poverty-stricken farmers, said Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju, at a working conference in Beijing on Wednesday.


By the end of November, 22.0 million urban dwellers were covered by the minimum government allowance, a figure that accounted for nearly 6 percent of the nation's total urban population and nearly all urban low-income residents.


The authorities have distributed roughly 15.3 billion yuan (US$1.9 billion).


In rural areas, by the end of November, roughly 12.6 million poor people benefited from rural social security, accounting for 64 percent of the total rural poor. The total rural aid fund has reached 2.6 billion yuan (US$314.1 million).


Government allowances to needy city dwellers started in 1999.


So far this year, the country's 23,000 donation stations under the Ministry of Civil Affairs have received 910.0 million yuan (US$110.0 million) in donations and 42.8 million items such as clothes and quilts.


Governments at all levels across the country have earmarked 1.9 billion yuan (US$229.6 million) this winter for disaster relief funds to help poor residents through the cold season.


In Beijing, the local civil affairs department will raise per capita subsidies to the rural poor to 240 yuan (US$30) a month from the beginning of 2005.


Urban residents facing financial difficulties in the capital will be able to benefit from slightly higher minimal allowance standards than their rural counterparts. They are also expecting extra money to help them deal with price hikes.


The minimum living allowance for urban families in financial difficulties will still be set at 290 yuan (US$35) per capita on average, but distribution has been improved to get the most money to those who are most in need. This group, including those over the age of 70 and under 16, will receive 10 percent more than the average urban poor, civil affairs officials said.


Unemployment insurance will rise as well, ranging from 347 to 446 yuan (US$42 to 54) from previous 326 to 419 yuan (US$40 to 51).


Disability and retirement pensions will also be increased.


(China Daily December 30, 2004)

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