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Pension Plans Extended to Farmers
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Some 55 million Chinese farmers started paying into a pension plan last year, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) said on Wednesday.

"Our work will focus on opening the pension system to the needy, including migrant workers and farmers who have lost their lands to development," according to Tian Chengping, Minister of Labor and Social Security, at the 2nd National Conference on Old Age.

By the end of 2005, China was collecting pension plan premiums from farmers in 1,870 counties around the country, and has so far accumulated a fund of more than 30 billion yuan (US$3.25 billion).

About 2.5 million farmers are now receiving pensions and they have withdrawn about three billion yuan (US$32.5 million) from the fund. Some three million farmers who have lost their lands are also receiving benefits.

Tian acknowledges that the present pension system is limited. 65 percent China's senior citizens live in the countryside, including 8.6 million who live in poverty.

The pension plan is an attempt to alleviate problems associated with an aging-population in China's rural areas, Tian said.

According to a report released by the China National Committee on Aging last month, the aging population in China is growing by 3.02 million annually. By 2051, China's elderly population is expected to hit 437 million, when three out of 10 Chinese people will be over 60.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2006)

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