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New rural pension plan to benefit aging farmers
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Zheng Baolin thinks his 0.5-hectare farm may not support him when he grows too old to work.

The 62-year-old farmer, who lives in Fengqiao Village, Rudong County in east China's Jiangsu Province, has only one married daughter. She now lives with her husband in a faraway city.

"I've been thinking of what I should do when I can't grow crops anymore.I think maybe I can try the new pension program," Zheng said.

A pilot rural pension program launched in China in August is expected to embrace 10 percent of the nation's counties by the end of 2009, and expand to cover the whole country by 2020.

It differs from the previous pension program, where funding was supplied by the farmers themselves. The new scheme will be subsidized by the central and local governments.

Farmers over 60 will receive a monthly endowment of varying amounts set according to their area's standard income levels after paying a fee to join the program.

In a country where the number of the people aged 60 and above exceeds 153 million, or 11 percent of the total population, the new pension program is bringing new hope to people like Zheng.

Zheng paid 9,300 yuan (1,300 US dollars), or 1.5 times his annual income, last October in exchange for a life-time insurance pension.

In return he received 106 yuan a month in 2008. This year he has been getting 136 yuan a month.

"I was told I would get more as our city develops. That will ease the burden on my daughter who supports me," he said.

China's one-child policy during the past three decades has increased the burden on sons and daughters who have to support their parents singlehandedly.

The problem is worse in rural areas because many young people there have migrated to work in cities. They stay away for longer periods of time and some have even moved permanently. But their parents mostly stay in the countryside.

Nantong, a city in a booming coastal province, is among areas that began the pilot pension program in 2008.

A total of 1.07 million farmers in Nantong, nearly 95 percent of the city's population, had joined the plan by this July.

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