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China increases subsistence allowance
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China has increased the monthly minimum living allowance by 15 yuan (2.05 U.S. dollars) in urban areas per person and by 10 yuan for rural residents this year, the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) said on Monday.

The MCA and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued a circular ordering much importance should be attached to the impact of consumer price increases of basic life necessities on poor families.

It asked local authorities to "increase allowances and deliver extra subsidies to the needy so as to ensure them a happy and harmonious Spring Festival".

The allowances should be delivered on time, it said.

The average monthly allowance in 2007 was 182.4 yuan in urban areas per person and 70 yuan in rural areas. The rural allowance was less than that in urban areas because living costs there were lower.

The rural minimum living allowance system was formally established last year in all 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese mainland, 10 years after the system was set up in urban areas.

Under the system, subsidies vary by region according to economic conditions, but the basic requirement is to enable low-income people in urban and rural areas to have adequate food and clothing.

The number of rural beneficiaries was 34.5 million in 2007, an increase of 19.48 million or 128.7 percent from the previous year, statistics show.

Beneficiaries include villagers who suffer chronic living difficulties because of illness, disability, aging or poor living conditions.

Official statistics showed China had 21.48 million rural people with an annual income of less than 85 U.S. dollars in 2006.

More than 22.7 million low-income urban residents received minimum living allowances last year, an increase of 300,000 people year-on-year.

(Xinhua News Agency February 5, 2008)

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