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Rural Social Security 'to Be Ensured'
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The State Council will release guidelines on a basic national social security system next month that for the first time will cover the neglected rural areas, the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) said yesterday.

Sun Yang, an official with MCA's department of subsistence security, said the State Council would hold a special meeting next month to discuss the implementation of the national rural basic social security system and issue guidelines for local governments to set up the system across the country.

The guidelines will formally establish China's rural basic social security system, although it might take the central and local governments another six months to implement it at the grass-roots level in the country, Sun said.

So far, almost all the provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have set up a rural basic social security system, benefiting 18.15 million rural residents. Only Yunnan and Guizhou provinces and the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions are yet to do so.

In the rural areas without the system, 5.623 million poor people are getting regular subsidy from local governments, the ministry said.

Civil Affairs Vice-Minister Li Liguo had said in March that the national rural social security system, expected to benefit about 3.5 percent of the rural population, would be in place by June. Currently, 27 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have their own rural social security systems.

But the new policy will help establish a uniform system across the country, with the central government earmarking funds for rural social security for the first time. The central government now provides funds for such a system only in urban areas.

"The central government will grant subsidies according to the needs and development levels of the areas, with western regions receiving more," Li said.

Local governments, too, will have to allocate funds to operate the system and set their own eligibility criteria for aid. "The eligibility criteria will be determined on the basis of the national poverty line, that is, an annual income of 693 yuan (US$90)," she said.

Different parts of the country will be allowed to set their own eligibility criteria.

Li said the system would accord priority to rural residents who are poor and ill, physically disabled or aged, or live in a harsh environment.

At present, the eligibility criteria for rural basic social security system is an income of 600 to 800 yuan (US$78 to 104) a year in the central and western areas and 1,000 to 1,200 (US$130 to 156) a year in the eastern areas.

For example, in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, farmers who earn less than 625 yuan (US$80) and herdsmen who make less than 825 yuan (US$106) a year are entitled to the minimum social security. In contrast, Fujian Province draws the line at 1,200 yuan (US$156).

Though Li didn't say how much money the central government would spend on the system, the Ministry of Finance will draw up a plan to decide how much funds should be allocated to different areas.

(China Daily May 29, 2007)

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