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5 Mln Rural Poor to Receive Training
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Better vocational training is to be given to young rural laborers to help them escape the poverty trap, a senior official said yesterday.

Liu Fuhe, spokesman for the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said the government understands the importance of developing human resources to reduce poverty instead of depending solely on natural resources.

He said the government, through its Dewdrop Project, which began in 2004, aims to provide free vocational training to five million young farmers and 200,000 older people from poor rural areas and help them to find jobs in cities during its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).

Governments of all levels are responsible for the bulk of the training costs, although in recent years, there has been a growing contribution from companies and individuals, Liu said.

In 2006, the project spent 730 million yuan (US$95 million) on training for about 1.65 million farmers, up 29 percent on 2005. Of those, 1.27 million went on to find work and in doing so helped four million family members escape the poverty trap, he said.

Liu said the government pays a subsidy of between 700 and 1,000 yuan (US$90-$130) to each person in the project to help them acquire practical skills at a vocational training school.

"This is the wisest and most profitable way for the government to invest in education and training for the poor," Mao Yushi, a researcher with the Beijing Unirule Institute of Economics said yesterday at a forum on manpower in poor areas held in Beijing. 

Mao said farmers earn an average of 2,000 to 3,000 yuan a year, but in the city this can increase to 10,000 yuan.

Much of the additional income is then fed back into the economy and helps raise tax revenue, he said.

Bai Nansheng, a professor of agricultural economics at the Renmin University of China, said at the forum that the government should play a bigger role in organizing the flow of surplus labor in poor areas to urban areas where there is a shortage.

"Barriers still exist in some poor areas where there are huge banks of manpower and the government should provide more help," Bai said.

The number of people in China classed as "poor" has been reduced from 250 million in 1978 to 21.48 million at the end of 2006, the poverty alleviation office said.

(China Daily June 20, 2007)

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