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Closing gap between haves and have-nots
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-17 07:12

Social security network essential

To achieve equality for the have-nots, China should also set up a social security network for all of its people, no matter where they live and what their social status is, the report recommended.

In cities, the government has been trying to bring urban residents under social security umbrellas including the unemployed, work-related, medical and pension insurances. However, most farmers-turned-workers have been excluded from the benefits. The poorly functioning medical care system and the insufficient social security system are the first things to be blamed.

Consequently, migrant workers and farmers use the shabby clinics, although risking their health, because they cannot afford medical treatment at big hospitals. With less money in their pockets, low-income groups cannot choose decent medical services.

"The government should subsidize part of the insurances of the migrants, and a national account should be granted to individual migrants so that their insurances can be sustained when they move from city to city," the report said.

The report suggested that the central government should increase its educational subsidies in these large or medium-sized cities, which receive the most migrants.

"Without a good education, they will find it almost impossible to get decent jobs in the future, and their disadvantaged social status will be passed on from generation to generation," the report said. "The reform's direction is that local governments should get central government education subsidies in line with how much compulsory education service they deliver."

The central government adopted a policy in 2002 requiring the local finance departments to provide funds for the education of migrant workers' children and give financial support to schools with a big proportion of such students.

China spends 2 per cent of its gross domestic product on education, which is a far cry from the internationally recommended 6 per cent. The country now has 19.8 million migrant workers' children under the age of 18. Nearly half of them cannot go to school and 9.3 per cent of them drop out.

(China Daily 12/17/2005 page3)

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