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Family Planning Aid Helps Elderly

Cheng Hezhong, a 62-year-old farmer from East China's Fujian Province, has become one of the first farmers to benefit from a pilot project that rewards rural people who stuck to the nation's family planning policy.

For Cheng, from Minhou County, who has no fixed income, the monthly bounty of nearly 60 yuan (US$7) means he and his wife will not have to rely on support from their two daughters.

Cheng's wife will also enjoy the same benefit as her husband in six years' time when she reaches 60.

More than 7,000 people in 26 provincial counties are covered by the trial implementation of the reward system, which was started last year.

According to the policy, rural residents that have had only one child, or two daughters, since 1973 will each year receive no less than 600 yuan when they reach 60.

Future pensioners will receive the same amount of money in a bid to encourage young couples to have fewer children.

This year, Fujian government will extend the policy to the whole province, with the number of beneficiaries increasing to 23,000, according to a recent report from the Fujian Provincial Population and Family Planning Committee.

The policy was launched in February last year by the State Population and Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance.

With financial support from the central government, five provinces and cities in central and western China have started the trials.

Some provinces and cities in the east and south, such as Guangdong, Shanghai, Shandong, Jiangsu and Fujian will be required to pay for the policy themselves.

Some county officials in Fujian admitted this could be a problem in the future when the number of recipients rises.

Family planning was first introduced in the 1970s, and Fujian now has entered low fertility period, said Zhang Xuemei, director of the Provincial Population and Family Planning Committee.

Zhang said the first people affected by the policy are now getting older.

Traditionally, rural families had many children, who were then expected to support their parents.

Having fewer children conformed to new family planning rules, but left some parents without enough support when they retired.

This new policy will not only solve this practical difficulties for farmers, but push forward the family planning policy in rural areas, said Zhang.

The current 600 yuan yearly payout will be increased in future with the development of the local economy, he added.

"I never dreamed before that I could get money from the government just because I didn't break the family planning policy," said Yang Sidi, a farmer in Zherong County of Fujian's Ningde City.

Yang told reporters that the bounty he receives now is even more than that given by his child before.

Zhang said, "I believe that this policy, together with the current social security system that is now promoted in rural areas will gradually improve living standards for rural residents."

According to the committee, Fujian provincial government has laid aside 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million), which accounts for about 80 per cent of the total needed to run the project this year.

Official statistics indicate that China would have had 300 million more people if the family planning policy had not been introduced. Last year, the nation spent more than 180 million yuan (US$21 million) on this new project for 310,000 farmers in the five trial provinces and cities.

The policy will be even more widely promoted in China this year, the China Central Television reported.

(China Daily April 11, 2005)

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