China is now an aging society, with about 10 per cent of the population over 60 a challenge to the country's lagging welfare system.
Nearly 80 per cent of the 700 million rural residents have no medical insurance or other welfare care, and depend on their savings and their children to look after them.
For families with only one child, the burden of taking care of their parents is quite heavy.
In response experts have appealed to the government to take measures to help them.
In a report about the pilot projects, revealed by the Development Research Centre of the State Council yesterday, experts said 95 per cent of senior residents in rural parts of Jiangxi, Gansu and Shanxi, who only have one child or two girls, run into financial difficulty.
Although US$72 is only a small amount per person per year, the project still made farmers considerably less worried about falling ill in old age, said Wei Jianmin, an expert from the centre.
Encouraged by the policy, more and more farmers in the pilot areas prefer to have only one child, and the average population increase has slowed to just 2.8 points per one thousand, the report said.
Meanwhile, rural families who have permission to have a third child, but choose not to, have been offered a one-off award, under another pilot project carried in several western provinces since 2000. The project will be spread through all of western China in early 2007.
But despite the projects' success, experts have called on the government to raise the amount of money offered to parents who chose to have only one child, complaining that US$72 a year is too little for an elderly person living in poverty.
So far a total of only 1 billion yuan (US$12 million) has been spent on the project, Wei said.