Social security allowances to be raised
A promised hike in social security allowances is making the holiday season much warmer.
This winter's weather may be colder than last year but widowed farmer Liu Yulan, 71, is not feeling it. Instead, he is focusing on the extra cash being handed out by the municipal government.
Liu, who lives in suburban areas of Haidian District, gets 180 yuan (US$22) a month to cover her daily living expenses. She may also get other cash bonuses during holidays.
The local civil affairs department has promised to raise per capita subsidies for rural poor to 240 yuan (US$30) a month starting from the beginning of 2005.
Urban residents facing financial difficulties in the capital will be able to benefit from slightly higher minimal allowance standards than their rural counterparts. They are also expecting extra money to help them deal with price hikes.
The minimum living allowance for urban families in financial difficulties will still be set at 290 yuan (US$35) per capita on average, but distribution has been improved to get the most money to those who are most in need.
Also, people in more need, including elderly above 70 and youth younger than 16, can get 10 per cent more allowance than the average urban poor, civil affairs officials said.
Unemployment insurance will increase to a sum ranging from 347 to 446 yuan (US$42-54) from previous 326 to 419 yuan (US$40-51).
Pensions for retired and injured will also be increased accordingly.
The country has made efforts to spread the social security umbrella to most urban poor and an increasing number of poverty-stricken farmers, Li Xueju, minister of civil affairs, said yesterday at a working conference in Beijing.
By the end of November, 22.04 million urban dwellers were covered by the minimum government allowance.
That figure accounted for nearly 6 per cent of the nation's total urban population, the ministry's latest statistics show.
"This means we have included almost all urban low-income residents in our social security net," Li said.
The authorities have distributed roughly 15.3 billion yuan (US$1.85 billion).
In rural areas, by the end of November, roughly 12.6 million poor people benefited from rural social security, accounting for 64 per cent of the total rural poor. The total rural aid fund has reached 2.64 billion yuan (US$318 million).
Government allowances to needy urbanites started in 1999.
The country has built up a social donation network to help the needy.
The country's 23,000 donation stations under the Ministry of Civil Affairs have received 910 million yuan (US$110 million) in donations and 42.8 million items such as clothes and quilts so far this year, statistics show.
Governments at all levels across the country have earmarked 1.94 billion yuan (US$234 million) this winter for disaster relief funds to help poor residents through the cold season.