IV. Improving Standards of Living for All

IV. Improving Standards of Living for All

Since the founding of the autonomous region, and especially since the launch of the reform and opening-up drive, Xinjiang has enjoyed overall economic and social development, and people of the various ethnic groups in the autonomous region have all benefitted from the fruits of the reform and development. Since 2010, Xinjiang has stepped up efforts and input in improving the people's living standards, undertaking over 500 key projects in this regard over the past six consecutive "people's livelihood years," with the expenditure on improving the people's livelihood accounting for over 70 percent of the region's yearly total public spending. This has made these six years a period in which the people are benefitted the most and see the greatest improvement in their material well-being and cultural life.

Employment channels are constantly expanding. In 2014, the registered urban unemployment rate of Xinjiang was 3.2 percent. From 2010 to 2014, 2.5 million new urban jobs were created, averaging a yearly growth of 500,000. In 2010, Xinjiang established a registration system for people with difficulties in finding work and for families of which no member was gainfully employed. By 2014, under this system Xinjiang had helped 29,000 members of these "zero-employment" families find jobs, cutting the number of zero-employment families by 26,000. From 2010 to 2014, Xinjiang provided jobs to 303,000 university graduates, with the employment rates of university graduates and university graduates of ethnic minority origins reaching 88.6 and 82.7 percent, respectively. By May 2011, it had virtually resolved the employment problems of 75,000 unemployed graduates of junior colleges and technical secondary schools who had registered before the end of 2009, of whom 84.6 percent came from ethnic minority groups. Some 1.66 million job opportunities were created for rural surplus labor in 2009. This figure increased to 2.85 million in 2014. During this five-year period, the relevant wage bill totaled RMB56.6 billion.

The life of the people has kept improving. In 2014, the per-capita disposable income of urban residents averaged RMB21,881, an increase of 51.2 fold over that of 1980, representing an average annual growth of 12.3 percent. This also represented an increase of more than RMB9,624 over that of 2009. The per-capita net income of rural residents was RMB8,114, increasing by 41.4 fold as compared with that of 1980, averaging an annual growth of 11.5 percent. This was an increase of more than RMB4,231 as compared with 2009. The Engel coefficient of urban and rural residents continued to decline, from 36.3 percent and 41.5 percent respectively in 2009 to 31.3 percent and 34.5 percent in 2014.

Living conditions of both urban and rural residents have continued to improve. In 2004, Xinjiang started an earthquake-resistant and comfortable housing project; and since 2010, it has launched projects of offering comfortable housing and enriching the people, settlement of herdsmen for developing animal husbandry, and urban affordable housing. By 2014, more than 4.8 million farmers and herdsmen and 2.07 million middle- and low-income urban residents had moved into new homes. The average flood space for an urban household was 85 sq m, and that of a rural household was 105 sq m. All urban households and 72 percent of rural households have been provided with facilities for heating. In urban areas, the water supply covered 96.3 percent of the population, and the centralized sewage treatment rate reached 78.6 percent. Sixty-three percent of domestic garbage underwent hazard-free treatment. In built-up urban areas, the green coverage rate was 34.9 percent, and per-capita green park area was 10.7 sq m. Projects to improve the communal environment in rural areas and demonstration projects of comprehensive improvement of rural environment were launched, gradually bringing about a clean and neat village environment for more than 2 million farmers and herdsmen.

Continuous development has been seen in education. Since 2010, education in the region has ushered in a new period of rapid development. Over the past five years, education expenditure has exceeded RMB250 billion. In 2014, the proportion of education expenditure in the GDP increased to 6.47 percent. Xinjiang has 9,230 schools of various types and at all levels, with 4,734,800 students and 338,200 full-time teachers. From 2010 to 2014, the three-year kindergarten enrollment rate grew from 51 percent to 72.4 percent; the proportion of junior high school graduates getting enrolled into high schools increased from 74 percent to 91 percent, while the gross high school enrollment increased from 67 percent to 84 percent. The university and college admission rate grew from 64 percent to 79 percent, and the gross enrollment rate of higher education increased from 22 percent to 31 percent. This brought Xinjiang to a level of higher education take-up similar to the rest of the country. A full system of vocational education was in place, with 176 secondary vocational and technical schools providing for 219,500 students.

Bilingual education has undergone full development. As of the 1950s, ethnic minority students have gradually been offered bilingual courses, thus ensuing steady development in this regard. In 2014, a total of 269,400 Xinjiang students - from pre-school to high school - were receiving bilingual education, and the coverage of bilingual education in various forms reached 100 percent. From 2010 to 2014, the take-up of two-year pre-school bilingual education grew from 59 percent to 89 percent. Practice has proved that bilingual education has further promoted relations among different ethnic groups, in addition to improving the employability of the ethnic minorities.

The mechanism for guaranteeing education has improved. In tandem with the rest of China, Xinjiang has implemented the policy of "two exemptions and one subsidy" - exemption from miscellaneous fees and textbook fees, and subsidized living expenses for resident students, and abolishing tuition and miscellaneous fees for urban primary and middle schools and realizing free compulsory education. The policy of "three exemptions and one subsidy" has been implemented for high schools and secondary vocational schools in the four prefectures of southern Xinjiang, i.e., exemption from tuition, textbook and boarding fees, and subsidized living expenses for resident students, in order to realize 14-year free education there. A nutrition improvement program has also been implemented for all rural students undertaking compulsory education, covering 36 counties and all junior high school classes specially set up in some cities in Xinjiang for minority students from remote impoverished areas. A system for subsidizing students from pre-school to higher education has been established, and its coverage even extends to students from Xinjiang studying overseas at their own expense, ensuring that students from all ethnic groups enjoy equal access to education.

Public health has been improved steadily. Through 60 years of development, total healthcare resources continue to expand, while the health service system continues to improve. As a major indicator of people's livelihood, since 2010, financial input in healthcare has kept growing. In 2014, Xinjiang boasted 18,873 medical and health institutions at various levels and of various types, manned by 153,417 health professionals. In the region, every 1,000 people averaged 6.22 hospital beds, 2.38 licensed (assistant) doctors and 2.60 registered nurses, a level higher than the national average. The health emergency response capacity has been significantly enhanced, and major epidemic and endemic diseases have been brought under effective control. Key health indicators have improved remarkably. From 2010 to 2014, the infant mortality rate fell from 2.66 to 2.16 per thousand, the maternal mortality rate went down from 43.41 to 39.27 per 100,000, and average life expectancy reached 72.35 years.

There has been a steady improvement in the provision of social security. In 2011, Xinjiang led the country in establishing systems of basic old-age insurance and basic medical insurance that gave overall consideration to both urban and rural areas and cover all the local population, providing everyone access to basic social security. The coverage of the new cooperative medical system for agricultural and pastoral areas was 99.7 percent. The coverage of the new rural social pension insurance reached 98.5 percent. Unemployment, work-related injury and maternity insurance systems have been extended to cover all occupational groups. In 2014, there were 33.5 million registrations in Xinjiang's various social insurance schemes, an increase of 10.73 million or 47 percent over 2009. The coverage of these insurance schemes exceeded 90 percent, essentially ensuring that all those in need of insurance are provided for.

For 10 consecutive years, Xinjiang has adjusted the basic pension for enterprise retirees, increasing the basic monthly pension from an average of RMB1,338 in 2009 up to RMB2,298 in 2014, a level of increase that tops the whole country. For four consecutive years, the unemployment insurance benefits have been increased, with the per-capita average monthly unemployment insurance reaching RMB761 in 2014. The annual per-capita government subsidy for urban residents' medical insurance was raised from RMB120 in 2009 to RMB330 in 2014, RMB10 higher than the national average.

Social assistance has continued to strengthen. Subsistence allowances and other life assistance systems have been established. Life assistance plays an increasingly important role in underpinning security. The system of subsistence allowances covers both urban and rural areas, again ensuring that all of those in need of insurance are provided for. From 2009 to 2014, the monthly subsistence allowance for urban residents increased from RMB176 per capita to RMB329 per capita, while that of rural residents rose from RMB68 to RMB129. Subsidies for disabled servicemen and family members of revolutionary martyrs and servicemen doubled. For rural households enjoying the "five guarantees" (proper food, clothing, medical care, housing and funeral/educational expenses), subsidies for those living in nursing homes increased from RMB3,036 to RMB6,750 per year, and that for those living at home grew from RMB2,280 to RMB4,301 per year. In 2014, there were 1,726 old people's homes, with a total of 52,183 beds, averaging 20.6 beds per thousand elderly people. People over the age 80 now enjoy a basic living allowance and free medical check-up. The minimum basic living expenses for orphans supported by welfare institutions grew from RMB360 per month in 2009 to RMB900 per month in 2014.

Remarkable results have been achieved in poverty alleviation. In the 1990s, the state launched the Seven-Year Poverty Alleviation Program (to lift 80 million people out of poverty), during which Xinjiang had managed to solve the problem of providing food and clothing for 1.32 million impoverished people. From 2001 to 2010, Xinjiang solved the problem of shortages of food and clothing for 2.84 million people, thus entering a new stage of consolidation and development in this regard. From 2011 to 2014, Xinjiang carried out policies of regional development and priority poverty alleviation in the three prefectures of southern Xinjiang (Hotan, Kashi and Kizilsu), and in border areas and poor mountainous areas. Over these four years, special funds allocated for poverty relief totaled RMB10.1 billion, 12,000 poverty alleviation projects were implemented, poverty alleviation training was provided to 775,000 recipients, and poverty reduction programs were carried out in 1,902 poverty-stricken villages. Thanks to these efforts, Xinjiang's poverty-stricken population was reduced by 1.39 million, and marked improvement has been seen in the work and living conditions of farmers and herdsmen in the poverty-stricken areas.