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China urges improved subsistence allowance system

(Xinhua)

08:58, September 27, 2012

BEIJING, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- China has called for improvements in the management and supervision of the country's subsistence allowance system in order to promote social equity and justice, according to a government document released on Wednesday.

Subsistence allowances are handed out by the government to citizens with per capita household incomes below the local minimum subsistence level, which is conducive to narrowing the widening income gap between rural and urban areas, experts say.

According to the document, posted on the central government's website, www.gov.cn, some Chinese regions have not properly supervised and managed the allowances. Therefore, it urges strengthening their regulation and ensuring a fair and transparent distribution.

It asked township governments or neighborhood committees to conduct household surveys and democratic appraisals before distributing allowances.

The examination process should be transparent, efficient and fair, and those no longer eligible for allowances should withdraw from the system in a timely manner, according to the document, which also encouraged the public to supervise the system.

China established the subsistence allowance system in the late 1990s. After more than a decade of economic and social development, the country has formulated an extensive "safety net," which has effectively guaranteed the basic living expenses of disadvantaged rural and urban families.

By the end of last year, more than 22.76 million urbanites and 53.06 million rural people in China were eligible for subsistence allowances. Last year, the average monthly urban subsistence level was 287.6 yuan (45.65 U.S. dollars) per person, up 14.5 percent year on year, and 143.2 yuan per person in rural areas, up 22.4 percent, official statistics show.

Observers say the "safety net" plays a key role in alleviating poverty, maintaining social equality and stability and narrowing the urban-rural gap.

Moreover, local governments have strengthened re-employment training for allowance recipients and offered preferential policies for the schooling of recipients' children.
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