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Provincewide Social Security Net Urged

Foshan's success with its rural social security net may lead to the system being replicated throughout the southern province of Guangdong, to the betterment of all farmers.

The Guangdong Democratic Construction Association put forward the proposal during the third session of the Ninth Guangdong Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The conference approved the proposal and it has moved to the provincial government, which will look at the system's merits and perhaps implement it later in the year.

On June 23 last year, the Foshan Labor and Social Security Bureau created a detailed social security structure for the farmers in all of its villages, becoming the forerunner for the country.

The bureau set a guaranteed minimum living allowance of 310 yuan (US$37) per month to the members of Foshan's villages - the highest in Guangdong.

It meant any farmer with an income of less than that amount could get financial aid from various levels of government.

Besides the guarantee, the bureau also provides money to farmers who are not able to pay for education, housing, medical treatment or legal aid.

Many of Foshan's farmers have benefited greatly from the social security structure over the past six months, and it should be expanded to other cities of the booming Pearl River Delta, said Lu Xiaoming, the mover of the motion, who is a professor at the Guangdong University of Business Studies' law school.

According to Lu, Dongguan and Shenzhen, another two cities in the delta, have also launched special social security schemes in their rural areas.

In Nanshe Village of the Chashan Township in Dongguan, governments at the three levels contribute money for residents who are above 60 years old.

"The monthly 350 yuan (US$42) is known as a pension by the locals, although it is not regarded by the authorities as such," said Xie Xiaoliang, who works on Nanshe Village Committee.

"The living standards of old people have improved greatly."

Lu said: "Although some locations in Guangdong are forward-thinking in providing social security for their farmers, most places in Guangdong still lag behind."

Statistics from the Ministry of Finance show the lowest guaranteed standard of living in the delta is only 60 yuan (US$7.2) a month.

(China Daily January 28, 2005)

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