The Ministry of Civil Affairs told a national poverty relief conference in Beijing on November 18 that by the end of this year 70 percent of counties in 90 percent of provinces will have begun to establish systems to guarantee a minimum standard of living.
Jia Zhibang, vice minister of civil affairs, said systems have already been set up in most provinces, but that work has been carried out slowly at prefectural and county levels.
The ministry said the system is expected to cover all urban and rural areas by the end of next year.
Jia said that the number of people assisted by government support had increased many times over the past few years and was soon expected to exceed 100 million.
Urban residents are currently covered by a minimum standard of living, while rural households of infirm and childless older people enjoy the five guarantees - food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses - and these will continue to be provided, as will an emphasis on the poorest in rural areas, said Jia.
Jia said his ministry will coordinate with the Ministry of Finance in adjusting financial expenditure structures to provide stable funding channels for the development of minimum living standards.
Investment from central government in this area has increased by a big margin in recent years, said Jia, totaling 11.2 billion yuan this year, and its expenditure on natural disaster relief funds has also increased each year.
In addition to the rural medical care systems, central government has established urban medical care systems. This year it has allocated 600 million yuan to support various localities in setting up the urban and rural medical care fund. According to the statistics from the departments of civil affairs, spending on social relief funds by financial departments at various levels will exceed 30 billion yuan by the end of the year, and is likely to continue increasing in 2006, the ministry said.
Proposals for the 11th Five-year Guideline on the National Economy and Social Development adopted at the 5th session of the 16th Communist Party of China Central Committee in mid October stressed the need to set up minimum standard of living projects for rural people in areas where conditions permit, and increase funds allocated for poverty reduction.
China's current assistance system mainly involves ensuring an urban minimum living standard, relief for disaster-affected people, the five guarantees in rural areas, help for the poorest rural households, medical, educational and housing assistance, legal aid and support for homeless people.
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong, November 25, 2005)