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China Expands Aid to Urban Poor
The Chinese government has provided funds for adequate food and clothing to nearly all low-income urban residents, Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Yang Yanyin said at a workshop on ensuring the basic living standards of Chinese urban residents in Shenyang in northeast China’s Liaoning Province on Thursday.

"The social security system aimed at protecting basic living standards has taken shape in China," said Yang.

The Chinese government, already providing food assistance to over 19 million poor urban residents, has begun providing assistance in medical treatment, housing, education and traffic to these residents in an effort to raise their standard of living.

Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong have established medicare assistance focusing on serious illnesses. Preferential policies to aid needy households, including reduced prices for utilities such as water, electricity and heat, are also being widely implemented.   

Shandong and Jiangsu provinces have adopted various measures to encourage low-income people to increase employment opportunities. In Liaoning, the annual amount of temporary relief fund by the government for needy urban population has exceeded 200 million yuan (US$24 million).

Among over 200,000 low-income people who have jobs in Liaoning, 80,000 are now able to have adequate food and clothing relying on themselves. Another 80,000 children in poor families have received assistance for receiving education. By the end of next year, 5,000 low-income families will move into new homes.

According to Liaoning's governor, Bo Xilai, "Improvement in social assistance not only saves the lives of those in poverty, but also strengthens their confidence in the country's reform of state-owned enterprises and industrial structural adjustment."

During the period from January to September 2002, China's financial departments, at various levels, provided 7.38 billion yuan (US$846.4 million) in assistance to cover the basic living expenses of poor urban residents, 30 percent more than the budget expenditure last year.

In spite of the assistance provided, some of low-income residents, including those who are disabled or unemployed, continue to face difficulties. The Chinese government has thus assigned responsibility for the social security network at the grass-roots level, urging that street and community residential committees do more to help, according to Yang.

In addition, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has urged governments at various levels to set up preferential policies for low-income families with regard to medical treatment, education, employment, business and housing.

Since 1999, when China established a mechanism to guarantee the basic living standards of urban residents, those entitled to social security assistance, originally the unemployed in the planned economy era, have now been joined by the city's needy urban residents.

(Xinhua News Agency October 24, 2002)

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