China Exclusive: Tibet offers pension, medical insurance to monks, nuns

Updated: 2011-11-24 15:44:00

(Xinhua)

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LHASA, November 24 (Xinhua) -- Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region will offer pension and medical insurance policies to monks and nuns at all  monasteries in the plateau region starting from next year, under a new policy issued here this week.

All registered clergy aged 18 and over can apply for free for the policies, according to the social security measures.

"It's a major approach to improve Tibetan people's livelihood," said Wu Yingjie, deputy secretary of Tibet's regional committee of the Communist Party of China.

The move is aimed at protecting the rights of monks and nuns by extending public services to their monasteries, he said.

"The new measure has removed the household registration barrier, which confined the clergy's access to social security services to their home towns," said Ngawang, a monk at Ganden Monastery near Lhasa.

Ganden Monastery has more than 300 registered monks, but only the 70 Lhasa residents among them are covered by local social security schemes.

The rest of the clergy, from other Tibetan communities in the Tibet autonomous region and the neighboring Qinghai and Sichuan provinces, have so far been uncovered by Lhasa's social security services, accessible only to locals, said Ngawang.

"The new policy will enable all the monks to get pension and medical insurance here in Lhasa," he said.

According to the new regulations, a monk can pay from 100 to 1,200 yuan a year into his pension fund and get a government subsidy ranging from 30 to 85 yuan a year.

After a monk turns 60 and has paid his premium for up to 15 years, he will get 120 yuan a month as a basic pension, plus a monthly return from his account which averages 0.7 percent of its total balance.

Monks who are already over 60 upon their application will get 120 yuan a monthly as a basic pension income, and will not have to pay their premiums, the document said.

Meanwhile, a monk can pay 60 yuan a year for his medical insurance and be subsidized 220 yuan by the government, comprised of 160 yuan from Tibet's regional government, 40 yuan from the city or prefecture government, and 20 yuan from the county government.

Registered monks aged over 65 and nuns over 60 will enjoy medical insurance for free without having to pay a premium.

Beneficiaries of the medical insurance will get a maximum annual reimbursement of 50,000 yuan per person for their medical expenses.

The document said monasteries will get a government subsidy equal to the total insurance premium paid by its clergy during the previous year for encouraging the clergy to join the social security scheme.

Meanwhile, such bonus subsidies will also be awarded to monasteries and clergy that are honored by the local government for law abidance and patriotism -- including acts to maintain social stability, according to the document.

The new measure, set to take effect in January, has received a warm welcome from the clergy at major Tibetan monasteries.

"It's a blessing for the monks and nuns. Now we don't have to worry about falling ill or getting old," said Ngawang Tongjor at Lhasa's Drepung Monastery.

The clause about the subsidy bonus is an important stimulus for monasteries and their clergy to abide by law and maintain social stability, said Lhapa, a monk at Jokhang Temple.