Government and Policy

China to raise its poverty line

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-28 07:20
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BEIJING - China says it will raise the poverty line by a big amount as part of its effort to spread the wealth more equally, according to Chinese media reports, but the public are not entirely convinced.

China set the current poverty level of 1,196 yuan ($176) per capita annually, in 2009, or about 6 times the amount of 1985, when the idea was first introduced in China.

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Nonetheless, some people are saying the current standard fails to reflect the country's economic development and rising standard of living.

The 1,196-yuan level is just 23 percent of the annual per capita income for rural people in 2009.

An unidentified National Bureau of Statistics official was quoted by the 21st Century Business Herald as saying on Wednesday, "The new poverty line should be raised to between 1,300 yuan and 1,400 yuan, which would take into account both basic living costs and requirements for a healthy life, including education and healthcare."

And, no timetable has been set for the new poverty line.

At the end of 2009, China had 35.97 million rural people living below the poverty line. This was 3.6 percent of the rural population, official figures showed.

But, as many as 150 million Chinese were actually living on less than $1.25 a day and were regarded as poor by the internationally accepted guidelines of the World Bank.

That number of people in China living below the international poverty line fell from 10.3 percent of the population in 2004 to 4 percent in 2007, according to the World Bank.

Wang Xiaolin, chief of the research unit at the International Poverty Reduction Center of China, said the country is planning to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020.

But, some analysts have pointed out that the poverty standard is not the only measure needed in removing poverty.

"The definition of poverty includes many things," Wang was quoted as saying by the 21st Century Business Herald. "In addition to low income, people lacking other basic protections such as education, medical care, and safe drinking water are also regarded as poor."

A government insider told China Daily on Wednesday that the country mainly helps the poor through preferential policies and funds at the local level to improve infrastructure.

"But, more work should be done in improving living conditions, such as road construction, electricity supply and guaranteeing safe drinking water.

"Currently, some poverty-stricken areas are not willing to spend more on the poor even when the local economy is well developed."

Incomes to go up

As part of its new five-year plan, China aims to raise incomes faster across the country and keep them growing at the same pace as the economy and productivity.

This comes from the Communist Party of China Central Committee's Proposal for Formulating the 12th Five-Year Program for China's Economic and Social Development (2011-2015), which was released on Wednesday.

Wages at the lower end of the income scale will increase dramatically and the number of people living in poverty is expected to see a significant reduction, the government said.

The government also stressed the need to work for a more balanced regional development and urbanization over the next five years.

This proposal will have to be approved by the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, when it convenes its annual session next year.