Documents call for expanding social security, making services better
China’s latest push to further dynamically monitor the living conditions of low-income groups while providing critical assistance for vulnerable families and individuals will offer fresh impetus to the nation’s common prosperity drive, officials and analysts have said.
At an executive meeting last month, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, adopted a guideline to widen the social security net for vulnerable groups, along with another policy document that will provide meal services for seniors.
Key steps include further optimizing a national information platform that keeps track of low-income groups, improving a database for vulnerable individuals and beefing up social security programs so that they can offer tailored social assistance to struggling families.
Tang Chengpei, vice-minister of civil affairs, told a news briefing after the release of the guideline that the latest measures spoke volumes about the emphasis the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council have placed on the well-being of low-income groups.
He explained that one of the first major steps the guideline urges is to identify families that require social assistance.
“In addition to channels that encourage low-income families to apply for social assistance, we need to give play to the role of big data shared between different departments and dispatch more grassroots workers to households to find those in need,” he said.
According to the ministry, the national platform for the dynamic monitoring of low-income people has so far collected the basic information of over 66 million individuals, or about 4.7 percent of the Chinese population.
Of those 66 million-plus people, nearly 40 million receive living allowances, while more than 4.6 million have no source of income and rely on the government for their basic needs, including care services, the ministry said.
The platform is also monitoring the living conditions of about 16 million other people as part of the national drive to prevent the recurrence of poverty, it added.
Role of social aid
Guan Xinping, a professor of social security and social policies at Nankai University in Tianjin, said China’s social assistance system has played a pivotal role in guaranteeing public well-being over the past several decades.
The measures come over two years after China announced its success in its fight against absolute poverty, a campaign that lifted 98.99 million rural residents out of poverty between 2012 and 2020.
The nation has since continued its push to resolve unbalanced and inadequate development and narrow the income gap between urban and rural areas to advance its goal of common prosperity.
Guan said the newly released policy document, which provides a sound policy framework for improving the social assistance system, will guide local authorities to better improve the lives of vulnerable families and individuals.
Tang, the vice-minister, said putting in place a tiered social assistance system is essential, given that the level and nature of difficulties faced by low-income people vary widely.
“Some families struggle to meet their basic living needs, while others face challenges related to healthcare, housing, children’s education and employment,” he said. “It is important to deepen reforms and ensure that the social aid programs can offer more tailored aid packages.”
One of the highlights of the latest policy measures, he said, is to categorize low-income families based on the challenges they are facing before offering them targeted assistance measures.
“The objective is to ensure that those who meet the criteria for the living allowance can access various policies, and for those who do not qualify for the living allowances but still face significant difficulties, they will not be excluded from receiving assistance,” he continued.
According to the Ministry of Finance, the nation allocated 1.07 trillion yuan ($146.8 billion) between 2018 and 2022 for financial support for low-income families, with the central government contributing 68 percent of the total aid.
The average amount of financial aid to low-income families in rural areas was raised from 227 yuan to 345 yuan a month from 2018 to 2022, while aid for low-income families in urban areas was raised from 402 yuan per month to 545 yuan, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Yang Lixiong, a professor of social security studies at Renmin University of China, said the measures will help guarantee public living standards despite the downward pressure facing the world’s second-largest economy.
“Such policy measures will help consolidate the nation’s hard-won poverty alleviation results while laying the foundation for the drive to attain common prosperity for all,” he said.
Helping seniors, disabled
Yang said one of the major highlights of the latest guideline is that it has prioritized support for families who are almost on the breadline, including disabled people and seniors who are unable to take care of themselves.
The guideline has also stressed the need to employ digital technology in social assistance programs, including the use of big data in monitoring the living conditions of low-income groups, he added.
Guan, the professor, said a key measure mentioned in the guideline is to allow vulnerable families and individuals to apply for emergency assistance without restrictions from their household registration, or hukou.
While the guideline pledged to bolster aid programs in healthcare, education, housing and employment, it also called for local authorities to purchase care-giving services from private entities for seniors and the disabled.
Non-governmental organizations will be offered incentives to take part in social assistance programs, and the government will encourage individuals, enterprises and organizations to engage in charitable activities through property donations, charitable projects and the establishment of service institutions.
Zhang Shouying, Party chief of Hongniya village in Wulian county, Shandong province, said for the government, the purchasing of care services is the most effective way to improve the lives of seniors.
In Hongniya, close to half its residents are age 60 or older, and there are 136 residents age 75 or older. Many of these seniors have money but are unable to care for themselves.
Zhang, who has piloted a program to offer catering and laundry services to seniors in recent years, said she is worried that the need for elder care in rural areas will only increase in the future.
“Going forward, we will need more professional service providers to help seniors in rural areas meet their basic needs,” she said.
Source : China Daily