Some 50 million needy people in China receive government relief on a regular basis, Li Liguo, Vice-minister of Civil Affairs, said on Tuesday.
Via an online conference with citizens, Li said the regular relief includes basic living allowances and medical treatment.
"The government also provides emergency relief in disaster-hit areas, offers help to low-income earners, vagrants and street children, and encourages the development of charity organizations," Li said.
Statistics from the ministry show that 22 million Chinese urban people live on the government's minimum living allowance. In rural areas, about 12 million farmers receive subsidies on a regular basis.
The ministry also cooperates with other ministries in some special relief programs to provide the needy with education, medicine, housing, winter heating and other services, Li said.
At the end of 2005, the central government earmarked 5.53 billion yuan (US$691 million) from its 2006 allowance funds, in addition to other fund-raising programs, to add some cheer to the needy during the festive season. The Chinese lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, is on January 29.
Li said his ministry also allocated 1.2 billion yuan (US$150 million) for food, clothes and heating equipment for people in disaster-hit areas to tide out the harsh winter.
In China, about 60 million people are victims of natural disasters every year and about 140 million senior citizens aged 60 and above are in need of social assistance, according to the ministry.
More than 26 million farmers are still living in abject poverty. Their average annual income is below 668 yuan (US$81), China's set poverty line benchmark. More than 49.77 million earn less than 924 yuan (US$112) a year, over three times less than the average urbanite's income.
(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2006)