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Govt pushes for support of childless parents

By Wen Ya (Global Times)

09:30, June 07, 2013

National health authorities are seeking to aid senior citizens whose only child predeceased them, in a bid to solve some of their practical difficulties.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission told the Global Times via e-mail Thursday that it is pushing for decision-making on policies targeted to help this vulnerable segment of society.

This follows a protest outside the commission last month, in which some 400 parents petitioned for about four days, asking for the monthly subsidies they receive, often around 100 yuan ($16), to be raised, along with other concessions.

Some protesters said the commission failed to listen to their demands, which are becoming more urgent. It was their fourth protest since 2010.

Their demands included raising the subsidy to 3,150 yuan for each parent, a reduction in medical expenses, and help for those aged above 65 to live in nursing homes for free, a representative of the parents, who refused to be named, told the Global Times.

"The negotiation with the authorities failed. They told us to wait and they are still coordinating with relevant departments," the representative said. "But we can't wait for that long as we're getting older and there's no one to look after us."

From 2008, a policy to give subsidies to these parents was extended nationwide, but only included mothers over 49 and their husbands. They were each given a monthly subsidy of 80 to 100 yuan. In 2011, a system to adjust the subsidy based on the annual increase of rural residents' per capita expenditure was announced.

The commission said in the e-mail that it has been looking into issues which affect these parents since 2012, including medical care and living expenses, and has suggested policies to relevant authorities. In addition, local governments have also made policies to improve the lives of these families such as offering economic aid and more insurance programs.

But the subsidies parents receive vary greatly according to where they live, from as little as 135 yuan per month in Liaoning Province to about 1,000 yuan in an economically advanced province such as Guangdong.

"The subsidy has little effect on improving my life. It's not enough to help a beggar," said Wang Qinghua, 51, from Liaoning, who joined the protest in late May. "I hope policies could be made as soon as possible."

The commission said that it is not easy to solve these problems because the country lacks a mature social security system, in which most seniors are taken care of by their own families. "The solution needs mutual efforts from government, society and individuals," it said.

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