Better social services

Updated: 2012-03-21 07:58

(China Daily)

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Premier Wen Jiabao's call on Monday, for private organizations to shoulder more of the burden for providing social services, represents both an opportunity and a challenge.

Certainly there is a need to improve the provision of social services to meet China's rapidly changing needs.

Industrialization, modernization and urbanization have deeply transformed China's social structure, with a significant proportion of the rural population migrating to urban areas in search of a better life, despite the lack of equal opportunities and equal access to public services.

The provision of social services needs to be expanded to meet their needs and those of the country's growing number of elderly.

Without a doubt, as the key provider of public services, the government is obligated to take the leading role in this endeavor.

However, even with the best will in the world it cannot bear the burden on its own, especially as social progress means the demand for social services will only increase and become more varied.

Chinese people are showing more and more enthusiasm for helping others. For instance, after the earthquake hit Wenchuan, Sichuan province, in 2008, many individuals reached out helping hands earlier than the government.

Clearly people have not only the potential but also the willingness to ease the government's burden. Despite a scandal surrounding the use of its funds, the Red Cross Society of China still received a record 558.5 million yuan ($88 million) in donations during the 2011 fiscal year. The government can harness this potential by ensuring there are the right channels to capitalize on their good intentions.

Non-governmental organizations offer such a channel. As independent and largely voluntary organizations, often founded by talented professionals, NGOs depend on people's trust for their survival and can work in specialized sectors with greater flexibility than the government.

The fast development of society and the popularity of the Internet have fundamentally changed people's expectations and all citizens want equal opportunities and equal access to social services.

The best way to meet these expectations will be to establish a healthy partnership between the government and NGOs, as good cooperation between them will mean better social services than either can provide alone.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for China's social service system, which is in dire need of improvement.

(China Daily 03/21/2012 page8)