According to official data, more than 19 million people are listed in this category, accounting for nearly 6 per cent of China’s urban population. Most of them are laid-off workers, as well as the debt-ridden, and workers who have recently taken a pay cut.
Wang Hui says urban poverty is largely a by-product of economic restructuring.
“During the restructuring of state-owned enterprises, many factories were closed. This led to an increase in the number of laid-off workers and a decrease in workers’ incomes. Meanwhile, an imperfect social security system is in the process of being transformed. Pension and social relief cannot be distributed quickly or efficiently enough.”
Wang Hui says this problem cannot be solved through economic development. An effective way is to provide these people equal access to economic activities.
“For people who are able to work, the government is training them up and providing them with job opportunities. At the same time, a comprehensive social security system is to be set up to guarantee the basic living conditions of these people and those who lost the ability to work.”
The Chinese government introduced a series of anti-poverty programs over recent years. Ensuring minimum living standards is one of the schemes, which is aimed at including all the urban poor. Over 10 billion yuan or 1.2 billion US dollars, has been set aside for this scheme over the past year.
Take Beijing for example, where the minimum living standard is just 290 yuan per person per month, less than one-third of the city’s average income. Wang Hui says this is just the first step.
“During the first phase, we are aiming to meet the basic demands of daily life, and our next step is to expand it to education, medical care and housing.”
He adds that this material support is also expected to go hand-in-hand with more humane measures. Communities are encouraged to do more to help these poor people feel being part of the society.
(cri.com January 15, 2003)