More Chinese are covered by the country's developing social security system, according to statistics released by China's Ministry of Labor and Social Security in Beijing Wednesday.
In 2002, some 2.2 million more Chinese joined the pension insurance scheme than in 2001, bringing the total number of people covered by the scheme to 110 million.
Meanwhile, pension insurance premiums are expected to generate 211 billion yuan (about US$25.4 billion) by the year's end, up two billion yuan from last year.
More than 90 million Chinese have joined the country's medical insurance scheme, a year-on-year increase of 14 million.
Labor and Social Security Minister Zhang Zuoyi said the steady increase in the number of beneficiaries indicated China's ongoing reforms in its social security systems were on track and increasingly welcome.
He attributed the achievement to the central government's consistent policies since 1998 in exploring job opportunities, optimizing social security systems and protecting the interests of workers.
Zhang said China's registered jobless rate might be held around four percent by the end of this year, lower than the projected 4.5 percent.
Over the past five years, a total of 27 million employees from state-owned enterprises had been laid-off for either industrial restructuring or economic reforms. Of them, some 18 million have found new jobs. In this year's fourth quarter alone, more than 500,000 are back in the workforce.
Meanwhile, retirees from the country's state-owned enterprises have risen to 33 million with an annual hike of 1.5 million since 1997.
Over the same period, China's central government has three times raised monthly pension payments to these retirees, boosting their average level from 415 yuan (about US$50) in 1997 to the present 625 yuan (about US$75.3).
While setting targets for 2003, Zhang said China aimed to help the remaining 9.5 million laid-off workers find jobs and keep the country's registered jobless rate around 4. 5 percent.
More efforts would be made to broaden medical and pension system reforms. And setting up a medical assistance system targeting low-income families would be speeded up.
The ministry would also tighten its supervision on employment to regulate the job market and better protect the interests of workers.
(Xinhua News Agency December 27, 2002)