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Free funerals improve social fairness

China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-31 07:51

Free funerals improve social fairness

Mourners offer flowers at a cemetery in Shanghai.[Photo/Xinhua]

During the fourth quater of last year, Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province, offered basic funeral services to at least 2,222 deceased non-permanent residents in the city for free. Beijing News commented on Thursday:

Guangzhou's exemption of about 1.98 million yuan ($290,000) in funeral costs, which used to be imposed on the families of the deceased, means that free funeral services are no longer a privilege of local residents. It signals a respectable move to cut funeral costs by subsidizing the cremation and removing the household registration barriers.

In other cities, such as Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan province, subsidies are also provided to those who decide to cremate the body of a deceased family member instead of burying it. And three years ago, Huizhou, another city in Guangdong, began offering free basic cremation services.

Offering more considerate funeral services to the families of the dead, regardless of their household registration, is justifiable in every sense. Citizens now live and die far from where they were born against the backdrop of the epic urbanization and freer flow of people. They should be allowed to enjoy affordable public services, including funerals, wherever they are.

On the other hand, the better the governments do their job in providing quality public goods, the less likely speculators are to push up the funeral costs. Complaints have been continually heard about high funeral costs and the rent-seeking service providers who go to great lengths to sustain their monopoly over the funeral industry. The net profit margin on an urn for a deceased person's ashes can be 50 percent or above in many cases.

Letting the market take over and keeping power in a cage are undoubtedly a priority, but for a breakthrough to happen governments at all levels might as well start by offering free-for-all basic funeral services. That matters a great deal to social justice and fairness.

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