CHINA> National
New poverty line raises number of poor
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-23 07:41

The new poverty line adopted by the government has increased the number of poor people to 43.2 million, the Caijing magazine has said.

Earlier data, based on a yearly income of 785 yuan ($115), put the number at 14.79 million.

But the government has now raised the threshold, saying a person earning less than 1,067 yuan ($156) a year will be considered living below the poverty line.

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The government has stopped using the much lower "absolute poverty line", said Liu Fuhe, a senior official with the policy and regulation department of the State Council's leading group office of poverty alleviation and development.

The low-income poverty line, sometimes called the relative poverty line, is now the only yardstick to measure poverty.

The unified standard was introduced in October during the 3rd Plenary of 17th CPC Central Committee.

The poverty line was raised after the Ministry of Civil Affairs introduced minimum income protection scheme in rural areas last year so that more poor people could be brought under the poverty alleviation office.

The raising of the poverty line means more people will be covered by the government's poverty relief schemes, on which the central government has spent 16.7 billion yuan this year, 2.3 billion yuan more than in 2007, Liu told Caijing over the weekend.

"We have been adjusting our work in accordance with the new standard," he said.

The government is likely to raise the poverty line further next year to enable more people to get poverty alleviation benefits, Liu said. But the increase next year would be "slight" compared with the one in October.

The extent of the adjustment will depend on how many more people are pushed into poverty by the economic slowdown and inflation, which would vary from region to region, he said.

More money would be spent next year to help the poor, especially because many of the jobless migrant workers forced to return home amid the economic slowdown could slip back into poverty.

"The income of a rising number of migrant workers forced to return home would fall," Liu said.

The government first announced a poverty line in 1985, saying people earning less than 200 yuan a year would be considered living in poverty.

It has been raising the threshold ever since to conform to economic and social changes.

Thirty years of reform and opening up have lifted more than 200 million people out of poverty.