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Improving minimum living subsidy mechanism
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-26 00:35

The Ministry of Civil Affairs Thursday pledged to further improve the minimum living subsidy mechanism to ensure poor urban residents receive necessary help under new circumstances, such as price fluctuations.

Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju urged local civil affairs departments to keep a close watch on the impact of price fluctuations on the lives of registered recipients for the minimum living allowance.

Li made the remarks at a national video-conference on how to improve the urban minimum living subsidy mechanism.

The minimum living subsidy programme, a new system differing from the traditional social welfare measures in the old planned economy era, was first launched in Shanghai in 1993 to help needy urban people on a regular basis with fixed assistance funds.

It soon swept across urban areas during the late 1990s when large numbers of workers were laid off from State-owned enterprises.

Over 22.4 million Chinese urban residents were registered as recipients of the minimum living allowance last year. The payments of subsidies across China totalled 15.1 billion yuan (US$1.83 billion) last year, according to the final accounting of revenue and expenditures.

The ministry urged local civil affairs departments to raise the allowances standard appropriately in accordance with local economic development, price jumps and changes in consumption levels to ensure that basic living standards for poor urban residents do not fall.

An urgent notice issued by the General Office of the State Council earlier this month on food supply also urged local governments to "appropriately adjust the standard of the urban minimum living subsidy under necessary conditions.''

The ministry asked local departments to form a flexible standard of minimum living subsidy, so that State funds can go to people who really need help.

The poorest citizens or laid-off workers and their relatives constitute the majority of urban recipients, most of them in provinces in northeast, central and west China, the old industrial bases and mining bases where resources have been exhausted.

The number of recipients exceeded 1 million in each of the provinces, according to a report from the ministry.

The criteria for the rural minimum living allowance vary from region to region in China in line with local economic development.

For example, childless and elderly subjects can receive annual per capita allowances of 1,000 yuan (US$120) in Guangdong, one of the richest provinces. The figure becomes 240 yuan (US$29) to 600 yuan (US$72) in the hinterland, especially in the western regions.

The ministry required local departments to properly link up the allowance mechanism with other social security mechanisms and re-employment efforts.

It also demanded local officials to streamline management and enhance supervision on the allocation of the subsidy, with requirements for strict procedures in every step from application for the subsidy, investigation and approval until the final provision of allowances.

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