The Chinese Government is planning to expand the system for ensuring a minimum living standard to cover all people in need in urban areas by next year.
Partly because of financial difficulties and incomplete regulations, the current system does not cover all urban residents.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the number of people enjoying the system in the second half of last year was about 4.58 million.
"This is far less than the number of people that should have been helped by the system,'' said Yang Yanyin, vice-minister of civil affairs.
The idea of a minimum living standard was first introduced in some cities in the 1990s.
In 1993, drawing on the experience of other countries, Shanghai took the lead in setting up the country's first minimum living standard system.
In 1997, the Ministry of Civil Affairs required establishment of such systems in all urban regions across the country.
China is now gradually establishing a social security network composed of an old-age pension system for retired workers, a medical insurance system for urban workers, an unemployment insurance system, a minimum living standard insurance system for laid-off workers from State-owned enterprises and a similar system for impoverished urban residents.
These systems have significantly helped ensure people's living standards and maintain social stability.
However, as the country's reform program goes deeper, problems in the current social security system are becoming increasingly more obvious.
One of the problems is the lack of money for pensions. The aid available for maintaining a minimum standard of living is insufficient to benefit all laid-off workers.
(People's Daily 09/27/2001)