Zhao offers a quick history of China's foreign policy since 1949 and then offers a provocative assessment of it today.
PRC State Council White Paper, “China's Social Security and Its Policy,” September 2004
China's Social Security and Its Policy
Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China
September 2004, Beijing
Social security is one of the most important socio-economic systems for a country in modern times. To establish and improve a social security system corresponding to the level of economic development is a logical requirement for coordinated economic and social development. It is also an important guarantee for the social stability and the long-term political stability of a country.
China is the biggest developing country with a large population in the world, and its economic base is weak and the development between regions and between town and country is unbalanced. Establishing a sound social security system in China is an extremely arduous task.
In light of China’s actual situation and adhering to the principle of “putting people first,” the Chinese government attaches great importance and devotes every effort to establishing and improving its social security system. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that the state shall establish and improve a social security system corresponding to the level of economic development. The Chinese government regards economic development as the basic prerequisite for improving people’s livelihood and effecting social security.
For a long time before 1978, when China adopted the reform and opening-up policies, China had practiced a social security policy corresponding to its planned economic system, providing social security services to its people as best it could. Since China established and improved its socialist market economy system in the mid-1980s, a series of reforms have been introduced to change the old social security system practiced under the planned economy, and a basic framework of a social security system has been set up in China corresponding to the market economy system, with the central and local governments sharing specific responsibilities.
China’s social security system includes social insurance, social welfare, the special care and placement system, social relief and housing services. As the core of the social security system, social insurance includes old-age insurance, unemployment insurance, medical insurance, work-related injury insurance and maternity insurance.
I. Old-age Insurance
China is now an aging society. As the aging of the population quickens, the number of elderly people is becoming very large. This trend will reach its peak in the 2030s. To guarantee the basic living standards of the elderly and safeguard their legitimate rights and interests, the Chinese government has continuously improved the old-age insurance system and reformed the fund-raising mode in an attempt to establish a multi-level old-age insurance system marked by sustainable development.
Promoting the Development of a Basic Old-age Insurance System for Employees in Urban Areas
Reforming the basic old-age insurance system for enterprise employees in urban areas. In 1997, the Chinese government unified the basic old-age insurance system for enterprise employees in urban areas across the country by implementing a social-pool-plus-personal-accounts scheme. Enterprise employees who have reached retirement age as provided by law (60 for male employees, 55 for female cadres and 50 for female workers) and who have paid their share of the premiums for 15 years or more shall be entitled to collect a basic old-age pension every month after retirement. The basic old-age pension consists of two parts: base pension and pension from personal account. The monthly sum of the base pension is tantamount to about 20 percent of an employee’s average monthly wage in that area in the previous year. The monthly pension sum from the personal account is 1/120 of the total accumulated sum in the personal account (11 percent of an employee’s wage being deposited every month in the pension section). The state adjusts the level of the basic old-age pension with reference to the price index of living expenses for urban residents and employees’ pay increases. In 2003, the monthly basic pension for enterprise retirees covered by the basic old-age insurance scheme was 621 yuan on average.
Expanding the coverage of basic old-age insurance. Initially, China’s basic old-age insurance covered only state-owned enterprises and collectively-owned enterprises in urban areas and their employees. In 1999, this coverage was expanded to include foreign-invested enterprises, private enterprises and other types of enterprises in urban areas, as well as their employees. All provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government can make provisions to include persons engaged in individual businesses of industry or commerce in the basic old-age insurance in accordance with the specific conditions in their localities. In 2002 China expanded its basic old-age insurance coverage to all those who were employed in a flexible manner in urban areas. In 2003, the number of people participating in the basic old-age insurance scheme across China reached 155.06 million, 116.46 million of whom were employees.
Undertaking experimental reforms in selected areas to improve the basic old-age insurance system. In 2001, the Chinese government began to carry out pilot projects along this line. The reform includes: gradually establishing personal accounts so that funds can be accumulated, and probing ways of preserving and increasing the value of the funds; changing the way the base pension is calculated and paid, whereby the amount of base pension is more closely linked to the length of time of the employee’s premium payment, and if an employee has participated in the basic old-age insurance program and paid the premiums for 15 years, he or she will be entitled to a higher rate of pension for every additional year of payment; unifying the procedures of premium payment by those who are employed in a flexible manner, whereby the base of their premium payment is uniformly set at 20 percent of the average wage of local employees. The pilot project was first conducted in Liaoning Province, and has been expanded to Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces in 2004.
Probing the reform of the retirement system of government agencies and public institutions. In China the retirement and pension system in government agencies and public institutions is different from that applied in enterprises. In 2003, there were 670,000 retirees who had joined the revolutionary ranks before October 1949 and 9,310,000 other retirees from these agencies and institutions. In the 1990s, some localities in China began to probe the procedures of reforming the retirement system in such agencies and institutions. Pilot projects were conducted to raise the retirement pension funds through the social pool program. By the end of 2003, some 11.99 million employees and 2.58 million retirees had participated in such pilot projects.
Raising Funds for Basic Old-age Insurance Through Multiple Channels
As the aging of the population quickens and the number of retirees increases steadily, the pressure on the payment of funds for basic old-age insurance is becoming ever greater. In order to make sure that basic pensions are paid in full and on time, the Chinese government is raising such funds through multiple channels.
Practicing joint premium payment by both enterprises and employees. Generally the premiums paid by enterprises will not exceed 20 percent of the total wage bill of the enterprise, with the specific proportion being determined by the people’s governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government. Individual employees pay eight percent of their wages as premiums, whereas self-employed individuals and those who are employed in a flexible manner in urban areas pay an amount equal to about 18 percent of the average wage in their locality. In 2003, the basic old-age insurance premium paid by enterprises nationwide totaled 259.5 billion yuan.
Increasing the subsidy outlay from the government financial budget for basic old-age insurance funds. The state has called upon governments at all levels to increase the momentum of restructuring their financial expenditure and raise their input into social security. In 2003, state budgets at all levels contributed 54.4 billion yuan toward basic old-age insurance funds, of which 47.4 billion yuan came from the central budget.
Establishing a national social security fund. In 2000, the Chinese government decided to create a national social security fund. Its sources include: funds acquired from reducing state shareholding, stock ownership assets, funds from the central budget, funds raised by other means approved by the State Council, and investment returns. The national social security fund is administered by the National Social Security Fund Executive Council, and is operated on market principles in accordance with the procedures and requirements prescribed by the “Interim Measures for the Management of the Investment of the National Social Security Fund.” The national social security fund provides an important financial reserve for the implementation of old-age insurance and other social security programs. By the end of 2003, it had accumulated over 130 billion yuan.
Promoting the Socialization of Management and Services for Old-age Insurance
In the past, Chinese enterprises were responsible for both the issuance of basic pensions to their own retirees and the administration of those retirees. Now, to ensure that all retirees receive their basic pensions in full and on time, and lessen the burden of social affairs on enterprises, the government is actively practicing the delivery of basic pensions by social service institutions. At the end of 2003, the basic pensions of retirees from enterprises were all delivered by social service institutions, and 84.5 percent of those retirees were under the administration of such institutions.
In 2003, the Chinese government began to implement an information-based labor security project, or popularly called “golden social security project,” in order to raise the overall management level of social insurance and to meet the needs of the floating labor force to continue with their social insurance coverage once they change jobs. The goal of the project is to realize computer-based networking of social security information across the country. So far the networking of old-age insurance information between the Central Government and the provinces has been initially effected.
Establishing a Multi-Level Old-age Insurance System
In recent years, the Chinese government has made great efforts to build a multi-level old-age insurance system. In addition to participating in the compulsory basic old-age insurance, enterprises with suitable conditions may set up annuities for their employees. Both enterprises and individuals will contribute to this annuity, which will be accumulated wholly for that specific purpose and managed in the form of personal accounts. The enterprise annuity funds will be managed and operated in accordance with the market mechanism. In 2003, nearly seven million people participated in the enterprise annuity program. In addition, the state also encourages personal savings for old age.
The first two decades of the 21st century will be a critical period in the development of China’s old-age insurance. The state will further improve the basic old-age insurance system that combines social pool and personal accounts, and gradually consolidate the latter. Basic old-age insurance will extend to cover all eligible employees in urban areas, and at the provincial level the establishment and improvement of regulating funds for old-age insurance will be carried out. Social pool at the city level shall be improved and gradually raised to that at the provincial level.
II. Unemployment Insurance
While promoting the reform of the enterprise employment system and setting up a market-oriented employment mechanism, the Chinese government is speeding up the development and improvement of an unemployment insurance system to guarantee the basic livelihood of employees after they lose their jobs, to help them find new jobs, and accelerate the combination of the basic livelihood guarantee system for people laid off from state-owned enterprises with the unemployment insurance. By the end of 2003 there were 103.73 million people who participated in the unemployment insurance scheme, which provided unemployment insurance benefits of varying time limits to 7.42 million laid-off employees throughout the year.
Standardizing and Improving the Unemployment Insurance System
In 1999, the Chinese government issued the “Regulations on Unemployment Insurance,” which effectively standardized and improved the unemployment insurance system.
Range of participation and premium payment. All enterprises and institutions in urban areas and their employees must participate in the unemployment insurance program, under which employers pay two percent of their total wage bill and individuals pay one percent of their personal wages as unemployment insurance premiums. When the unemployment insurance funds in areas that have participated in the social pool program are not enough, the shortfall shall be made up by unemployment insurance regulating funds or subsidized by local financial budgets.
Qualifying conditions for unemployment insurance. Laid-off persons must meet three requirements to qualify for unemployment insurance: having paid unemployment insurance premiums for at least one year; not having terminated their employment voluntarily; having registered as unemployed and being willing to be re-employed.
Rate of unemployment insurance allowance. The people’s governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government determine the unemployment insurance allowance in their own localities, which shall be lower than the minimum wage in their localities but higher than the minimum living allowance for urban residents. Provisions regarding the time limit during which one receives the benefits are as follows: An unemployed person whose former employer and himself or herself have continually paid unemployment insurance premiums for more than one year but less than five years is eligible for benefits for up to 12 months; if they have paid the premiums for more than five years but less than 10 years, the unemployed person is eligible for benefits for up to 18 months; if they have paid the premiums for more than 10 years, the unemployed person is eligible for benefits for up to 24 months.
Other unemployment insurance benefits. If an unemployed person falls ill while enjoying unemployment insurance allowance, he or she is entitled to receiving medical subsidies. If the unemployed person dies during this period, his or her family can receive funeral subsidies as well as a pension. In addition, an unemployed person may receive vocational training and subsidies for job agency services when receiving unemployment insurance allowance.
Unemployment insurance provisions for farmers-turned-contract- workers who are employed by enterprises and institutions in urban areas. Their employers shall pay unemployment insurance premiums as required, while the individual workers shall not. Those who have worked for one year continuously, those who do not renew their contracts upon expiration or those who terminate their contracts before they expire can apply for a living allowance, which shall come in a lump sum depending on the length of time they have been employed.
While guaranteeing the basic livelihood of the unemployed, the state actively looks for effective ways to steer unemployment insurance in the direction of promoting re-employment. It has strengthened the link between unemployment insurance services and re-employment services. Through prompt registration of unemployment, active provision of employment information and giving comprehensive employment guidance and job agency services, the state helps unemployed people to enhance their capabilities for competitive employment in both skills and mentality. It also increases the input of unemployment insurance funds into job agency services and occupational training. Through organizing training directly or purchasing R and D achievements, the government provides all kinds of job skill training for the unemployed in order to improve their capabilities for re-employment.
Guaranteeing the Basic Livelihood of Laid-Offs from State-owned Enterprises
In 1998, in view of the increased pressure on state-owned enterprises in re-positioning their redundant personnel and the inadequate bearing capacity of the unemployment insurance, the Chinese government created the basic livelihood guarantee system for people laid off from state-owned enterprises.
Making sure that the laid-off personnel from state-owned enterprises receive their basic living allowances in full and on time. Re-employment service centers have been established in all state-owned enterprises with laid-off personnel. After the latter have registered at a re-employment service center, they shall receive from it a basic livelihood allowance a little higher than the unemployment insurance payment in their own locality. The re-employment service center also pays old-age, medical and unemployment insurance premiums for laid-off people. The centers’ funds for basic living allowance payment to laid-off persons and their insurance premiums generally come from the following three sources: one third from the local government’s financial budget, one third provided by enterprises, and the remaining one third from the social pool program (mainly from unemployment insurance funds). From 1998 to 2003, some 24 million laid-off persons from state-owned enterprises across China had registered at the re-employment service centers, and nearly 19 million of them had found new jobs. Those who had registered at the centers had received allowances for basic livelihood in full and on time, and the centers had also paid social insurance premiums for them.
Establishing the “three guarantees” system. Since 1998, the Chinese government has put into operation a system that provides for three guarantees: basic livelihood guarantee for laid-off persons from state-owned enterprises, unemployment insurance guarantee and minimum living standard guarantee for urban residents. Laid-off persons can receive a basic living allowance for up to three years. If they still have not found a job by then, they can receive unemployment insurance payments. If the per capita income of a family is below the local minimum living standard, they can apply for the minimum living standard guarantee for urban residents.
Integrating with unemployment insurance. With the steady improvement of the unemployment insurance system and the increase of the fund accumulations, since 2001, the basic livelihood guarantee system for laid-offs from state-owned enterprises has been integrated with the unemployment insurance program. State-owned enterprises now have ceased to establish any new re-employment service centers, and, in principle, people newly laid off by enterprises have also ceased to register at such centers. Instead, enterprises just terminate their labor contracts according to law, and the laid-off persons will then be entitled to unemployment insurance benefits according to relevant regulations.
For some time in the future, the problem of surplus labor force and the problem of irrational employment structure will still exist, and unemployment insurance will continue to face considerable pressure. The Chinese government will make every effort to expand the coverage of unemployment insurance, and standardize fund raising and payment as well as its use and management. While guaranteeing the basic livelihood of unemployed people, it will give further play to the role of unemployment insurance in promoting re-employment.
III. Medical Insurance
In 1998, on the basis of previous trials, the Chinese government promulgated the “Decision on Establishing a Basic Medical Insurance System for Urban Employees,” promoting a national reform of the basic medical insurance system for urban employees. By the end of 2003, some 109.02 million people around China had participated in the basic medical insurance program, including 79.75 million employees and 29.27 million retirees.
Establishing a Basic Medical Insurance System for Urban Employees
China has adopted a basic medical insurance system for urban employees that combines social pool and personal accounts. In principle, the medical insurance is managed locally.
Insurance scope and premium. The basic medical insurance program covers all employers and employees in urban areas, including employees and retirees of all government agencies, public institutions, enterprises, mass organizations and private non-enterprise units. People employed in a flexible manner can also participate in the basic medical insurance program. The funds for basic medical insurance come mainly from premiums paid by both employers and employees: the premium paid by the employer is about six percent of the total wage bill, while that paid by the employee is two percent of his or her wage. Retirees are exempted from paying the premiums. The individuals’ premiums and 30 percent of the premiums paid by the employers go to the personal accounts, and the remaining 70 percent of the premiums paid by the employers goes to the social pool program funds.
Payment standards. Medical expenses are shared by the medical insurance fund and the individual: Outpatient treatment fees (smaller amounts) are mainly paid from the personal account, while hospitalization expenses (larger amounts) are paid mainly from the social pool fund. The minimum and maximum payments from the social pool fund are clearly set out. The minimum payment is, in principle, about 10 percent of the average annual wage of local employees, and the maximum payment is about four times the average annual wage of local employees. The medical expenses between the minimum and maximum standards are mainly paid from the social pool fund, and the individual pays a certain proportion. Expenses paid by retirees for medical treatment and medicine are reasonably lower than those paid by people in employment.
Improving Medical Insurance Management and Services
To standardize medical services and reduce costs, the state simultaneously promotes the reform of the basic medical insurance system, medical and healthcare system, and pharmaceuticals production and circulation system. Catalogues have been made of medications, medical consultations and medical services and facilities covered by the national basic medical insurance scheme. Efforts have been made to ensure that the insured enjoy necessary medical services, to curb unreasonable medical expenses, and to enhance the utilization efficiency of the basic medical insurance fund. A management method of the designation of medical institutions and pharmacies allowed to provide services covered by medical insurance has been put into practice. A competitive mechanism has been established to select and designate medical institutions and pharmacies that operate in a standard manner and provide good services. Meanwhile, account settlement procedures have been formulated and steadily improved for medical insurance handling organizations and designated medical institutions.
Improving the Multi-Level Medical Security System
While establishing the basic medical insurance system, to meet the medical demands of different types of people covered by the insurance, the state has established and improved a multi-level medical security system to reduce personal burdens on the insured individuals. In local areas, a system of subsidies for large medical expenses has been set up in accordance with actual conditions to settle medical expenses exceeding the maximum limit of the basic medical insurance payment, the funds for the subsidies being raised mainly from individuals or enterprises. The state encourages enterprises to establish supplementary medical insurance for their employees, mainly for settling medical expenses not covered by the enterprise employees’ basic medical insurance. The part of the enterprise’s supplementary medical insurance premiums that is within four percent of the total wage bill is booked as the production cost. A civil servants medical subsidy system has been established for civil servants and employees of public institutions who formerly enjoyed free medical services. The state is gradually establishing a social medical aid system mainly funded by the government to provide basic medical security for people with special difficulties.
The reform of China’s medical insurance system faces many heavy tasks. In future, the state will further expand the coverage of medical insurance to steadily include eligible people in all kinds of employment in urban areas in the basic medical insurance scheme; strengthen and improve medical insurance management and services; curb the irrational increase of medical expenses, and provide better services for the insured; establish and improve a multi-level medical security system, gradually lessen personal burden on the insured, and realize the stable operation and sustainable development of the medical insurance system.
IV. Insurance for Work-related Injuries
The Chinese government has made great efforts to establish an insurance system for work-related injuries that includes work-related injury prevention, compensation and recovery. After January 2004, when the “Regulations on Insurance for Work-related Injuries” went into effect, the coverage of such insurance has expanded rapidly. By the end of June 2004, as many as 49.96 million employees had underwritten this insurance scheme.
Establishing a Social Pool System for Insurance Funds for Work-related Injuries
The state stipulates that all enterprises and all individual businesses engaged in industry and commerce with employees must participate in work-related injury insurance, and pay insurance premiums for all their employees, permanent as well as temporary. The individual employees do not pay such premiums. The work-related injury insurance scheme adopts a social pool fund program with a balance of revenue and expenditure, and collection determined by expenditure. The social pool funds are established by cities at the prefectural level or above. The government determines the differential premium rates according to the degree of risk of work-related injuries involved in different sectors, and sets several premium rates within each sector according to the insurance payments and occurrence rates of such injuries.
Defining the Social Security Benefits
The work-related injury insurance scheme adopts the principle of “no-fault compensation.” The benefit items mainly include medical expenditures for work-related injuries; injury and disability subsidy, allowance and nursing fee according to the degree of loss of the ability to work; funeral subsidy, pension for the keep of family members and a lump-sum death subsidy payment, all of which go to the directly-related family members of the deceased worker in the case of death resulting from a work-related accident. The main qualifying condition for insurance payment is that the employee has been injured as a result of a work-related accident or has contracted an occupational disease during his or her working hours and within his or her workplace.
Exercising a Labor Ability Assessment System
The state has uniformly formulated and promulgated a national standard for assessment of the degree of a work-related injury and the degree of a disability caused by an occupational disease, whereby to assess the labor ability of an employee suffering from disability and whose labor ability has been affected due to a work-related injury, notwithstanding its being in a relatively stable condition after treatment. The labor ability assessment includes rating of the degree of physical impediment for labor and the degree of impairment to self-care ability. A labor ability assessment committee, consisting of representatives from relevant departments of the government, trade unions and employing units, is formed in each provincial-level city and city divided into districts to be in charge of the assessment of labor ability of injured and maimed employees. Application for labor ability assessment can be submitted by the employing unit, the employee suffering from the injury, or his or her directly-related family members, to the local committee. Having received the application, the committee will randomly choose members from its reserve of medical and health experts to conduct the assessment, and give its assessment conclusion based on the experts’ opinions.
Strengthening Work-related Injury Prevention and Occupational Rehabilitation
The Chinese government actively promotes prevention of work- related injuries and occupational diseases through improvement of engineering technology, publicity and education, formulation of safety regulations, implementing safety and hygiene standards, and encouraging employing units to improve production safety by manipulating their injury insurance premium rates. Following the principle of “safety and prevention first,” the government urges enterprises and employees to abide by the rules and regulations concerning work safety and hygiene, and to strictly enforce the state work safety and hygiene rules and standards, so as to prevent accidents during work, and reduce occupational hazards.
The state actively explores methods of occupational rehabilitation, providing injured workers with injury recovery, psychological recovery, occupational training and employment guidance. Occupational rehabilitation centers and hospitals have been set up in some areas to help injured workers to overcome physical and mental problems, regain their health and ability to work, and return to their jobs.
V. Maternity Insurance
In 1988, the state introduced a reform of the maternity insurance system in some areas. At the end of 2003, there were 36.55 million employees covered by maternity insurance. In the year of 2003, 360,000 employees received maternity insurance benefits.
The maternity insurance system mainly covers urban enterprises and their employees, and in some places women employees of government agencies, public institutions, mass organizations and enterprises. The premiums are paid by the employers participating in the maternity insurance scheme, and should not be more than one percent of the total wage bill. Individual employees do not pay the premiums. Employers not having participated in the scheme will still be responsible for providing maternity insurance benefits. Employees giving birth to babies may enjoy a childbirth allowance for 90 days according to law. Women employees who have given birth to babies or had abortions shall maintain their original wages and positions, and get reimbursements for their medical expenses according to related regulations.
VI. Social Welfare
The Chinese government actively promotes the development of social welfare, raising funds through various channels to provide social welfare benefits for the elderly, orphans and the disabled.
Social Welfare for the Elderly
In accordance with the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Elderly People’s Rights and Interests,” the state and the society have adopted measures to improve conditions for such people’s livelihood, health and participation in social development. Governments at all levels include services for elderly people in their socio-economic development plans, gradually increase investments in services for elderly people, and encourage investment from all sectors of society, so as to enable such services to grow in coordination with socio-economic development. In recent years, thanks to the promotion of the socialization of social welfare undertakings, a social service system for elderly people has gradually taken shape, with state- and collective-run social welfare organizations for elderly people as the backbone, those sponsored by various social sectors as a new growth point, community welfare services for elderly people as support, and services for elderly people living at home as the basis. Today, there are 38,000 social welfare organizations of various kinds for elderly people, with 1.129 million beds, or 8.4 beds for every 1,000 people over the age of 60. In 2001, the state introduced the “Starlight Plan – National Community Welfare Service for Elderly People.” By June 2004, a total of 32,000 Starlight Homes for Elderly People had been built or rebuilt in urban and rural areas all over China, with a total investment of 13.49 billion yuan.
Social Welfare for Children
According to relevant laws and regulations, such as the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors” and the “Education Law of the People’s Republic of China,” the state provides comprehensive welfare for children, including education and planned immunization, and takes special care to ensure the livelihood, recovery and education of children with special difficulties, such as disabled children, orphans and abandoned babies, by providing welfare projects, facilities and services. Today, China has 192 special welfare institutions for children and 600 comprehensive welfare institutions with a children’s department, accommodating a total of 54,000 orphans and disabled children. There are also nearly 10,000 community services around China for orphans and disabled people, such as rehabilitation centers and training classes for mentally retarded children.
The Chinese government has decided that, starting from 2004, it is going to carry out the “Tomorrow Plan – Operations and Rehabilitation for Disabled Orphans.” The plan will cover a three-year period and involve 600 million yuan in fund. Under the plan, each year 10,000 disabled orphans will receive operations and rehabilitation services. The aim is that by 2006 all the disabled orphans with surgical operation indications in all the social welfare institutions around China will have received effective operations and rehabilitation services.
Social Welfare for Disabled People
The “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled People” promulgated by the state provides legal guarantees for disabled people’s rehabilitation, education, employment, cultural life and social welfare. The government helps disabled people to get employment by running welfare enterprises, providing employment opportunities in a certain proportion, and supporting the self-employment of disabled people. Special care for disabled people is provided through such welfare measures as temporary aid, concentrated support and the running of accommodation institutions for disabled people. By the end of 2003, a total of over 4.03 million disabled people in urban areas around China were in employment, and 16.85 million disabled people in rural areas were engaged in productive labor; 2.59 million impoverished disabled people enjoyed guarantees for their livelihood; 442,000 disabled people enjoyed concentrated support and the “five guarantees” (of food, clothing, medicare, housing and burial expenses) in various welfare institutions and homes for the aged; 2.46 million disabled people were receiving temporary aid, regular allowances and special allowances; and over 7.01 million impoverished disabled people were receiving assistance to solve their problem of basic food and clothing. In 2003, governments at all levels earmarked 1.5 billion yuan for services for the disabled, and raised nearly 100 million yuan for social welfare funds.
VII. Special Care and Placement
The special care and placement system is one by which the Chinese government provides materials and expresses compassion mainly for servicemen and their families. At present, such people number over 40 million.
To protect the rights and interests of people eligible for special care, the Chinese government has promulgated the “Regulations on Commending Revolutionary Martyrs,” “Regulations on Special Care and Preferential Treatment for Servicemen,” and similar laws and regulations. The state sets different grades and standards for special care and preferential treatment according to the eligible people’s capacities and contributions, and with reference to the level of economic and social development. State compensation is provided to families of martyrs and servicemen who died on duty or of illnesses, and wounded and disabled servicemen. Regular and fixed living allowances are provided for special cases such as demobilized veterans. Allowances are universally distributed to the families of conscripts. Special cases, including disabled servicemen, enjoy social preferential treatment in terms of medical care, housing, transportation, education and employment. In 2003, there were 4.65 million people eligible for state compensation and subsidy, and government budgets at all levels for such compensation and subsidy totaled 8.79 billion yuan.
The “Military Service Law of the People’s Republic of China,” “Regulations on Placement for Demobilized Conscripts,” and similar laws and regulations provide for the placement and resettlement of demobilized servicemen. The government provides employment for demobilized soldiers in urban areas, and grants a lump-sum subsidy as well as preferential policy support for those who seek their own employment. Demobilized conscripts from rural areas have their difficulties in production, livelihood and medicare settled according to their different situations. Government and non-government organizations, enterprises and public institutions provide preferential recruitment for ex-servicemen from both urban and rural areas. Secondary schools and schools of higher learning provide preferential admission to ex-servicemen. Appropriate care is given to wounded and disabled ex-servicemen in terms of employment and livelihood. Arrangements for placement and resettlement are made for demobilized, transferred and retired military officers (including non-commissioned officers). Now, relevant services have been established by governments at all levels.
Proceeding from protecting the immediate interests of the people eligible for special care and preferential treatment, as well as ex-servicemen, the Chinese government is determined to mobilize all sectors of the society to continuously improve the special care and placement system, increase the level of protection for people of this category, promote legal and institutional guarantees for the placement and resettlement of ex-servicemen, and protect the legal rights and interests of the people eligible for special care and preferential treatment.
VIII. Social Relief
Proceeding from the situation of national development, the Chinese government has made the greatest efforts to provide the minimum standard of living for the urban and rural poor, to provide relief to natural disaster victims and to urban vagrants and beggars, while promoting and encouraging all kinds of social mutual help activities.
Guarantee of the Minimum Standard of Living for Urban Residents
In 1999, the Chinese government promulgated the “Regulations on Guaranteeing Urban Residents’ Minimum Standard of Living,” which stipulates that urban residents with non-agricultural permanent residence permits whose family’s per capita income is lower than the local urban residents’ minimum standard of living can receive basic subsistence assistance from the local government; those with neither source of income nor working capability, nor legal guardian, supporter or fosterer can receive in full the minimum living allowance according to the minimum living standard of local urban residents. The minimum living standard is decided primarily on the basis of urban residents’ average income and consumption level per capita, the price level of the previous year, the consumption price index, the local cost necessary for maintaining the basic livelihood, other connected social security standards, the materials for the basic needs of food, clothing and housing, and the expenditure on under-age children’s compulsory education. Meanwhile, consideration must also be given to the level of local socio-economic development, the number of people eligible for receiving the minimum living allowance and the local government’s fiscal capacity. Funds for this purpose are included in the fiscal budgets of the local governments. For local governments that have very tight budgets, the Central Government will provide financial support. By the end of 2003, there were 22.47 million urbanites nationwide drawing the minimum living allowance, which was an average of 58 yuan per person per month. A total of 15.6 billion yuan for the minimum living allowance was allocated from government budgets at central and local levels in 2003, which included the 9.2 billion yuan of the Central Government’s subsidies to the disadvantaged central and western regions.
Natural Disaster Relief
The state has set up an emergency system and a social relief system to deal with abrupt natural disasters. Taking people’s lives as the most important thing, the government has made timely efforts to save and evacuate disaster-stricken people, and to lead them to engage in self-relief production and mutual help. In this connection, it has also mobilized all social sectors to render help, so as to minimize as much as possible the casualties and property losses brought about by natural disasters, and to ensure that disaster victims can have adequate food, clothing and lodging, and access to medical treatment. Governments at all levels have enlisted expenditure in their budgets for the storage of disaster-relief materials and for evacuating victims. In 2003, the expenditure for such purposes from governments at various levels reached 5.31 billion yuan, of which 4.05 billion yuan came from the Central Government.
Relief for Urban Vagrants and Beggars
On August 1, 2003, the state promulgated the “Measures for the Administration of Relief for Vagrants and Beggars Without Assured Living Sources in Cities.” Based on the principle of “receiving aid of one’s own free will, and giving help gratis,” relief for vagrants and beggars who have no assured living sources in cities should be administered with compassion, and that relief should be provided in accordance with the different circumstances and needs of the recipients, so that they can receive relief in terms of food, lodging, medicare, communications, transportation to their hometowns and escort. By the end of 2003, some 909 such relief administrative centers had been set up throughout the country, offering help to 210,000 cases of urban vagrants and beggars who had no assured living sources that year.
Social Mutual Help
The state encourages and supports members of society to organize and participate voluntarily in the efforts to give help to the poor and needy, promotes the development of a social donation system, sets up and improves regular social institutions, and a network of offices and storage facilities to receive donations at any time from the general public. By the end of 2003, there were some 28,000 social donation centers in large and medium-sized cities and in some small cities with adequate facilities. From 1996 to 2003, a total of 23 billion yuan in donations was received from the general public (including goods converted into money), together with 960 million pieces of clothing and quilts, which helped an accumulative total of 400 million disaster victims and poverty-stricken people. Governments at the grassroots level also operate community services to provide care and services to the poor and needy. Trade unions at all levels organize “heart-warming activities” every year to offer help to badly-off families. From 1994 to early 2004, a total of 18.11 billion yuan had been raised for this purpose, and 55.778 million sympathy visits had been paid to families of poverty-stricken employees.
China’s trade unions at all levels also organize mutual help and social security activities. By the end of 2003, some 18,000 mutual help and social security organizations had been set up by the nation’s trade unions, with 7.23 million people participating in the social insurance program. Some 1,839 trade union organizations had started such employee mutual help and social security programs which covered 14.85 million participants, and six million cases were given assistance.
IX. Housing Security
The Chinese government actively promotes the development of an urban housing security system which includes mainly the system of publicly accumulated housing funds, the system of generally affordable and functional housing, and the low-rent housing system for the purpose of unremittingly improving urban residents’ housing conditions. By the end of 2003, the average floor space had reached 23.7 sq m per capita for urban residents.
The System of Publicly Accumulated Housing Funds
The system of publicly accumulated housing funds is a policy-based financing channel by which the Chinese government tries to solve the housing problem of employees. The funds are gathered monthly from government agencies, public institutions, enterprises, mass organizations, private non-enterprise units and their on-the-job employees in a certain proportion to the employees’ salaries, and such funds belong to individual employees. The publicly accumulated housing funds are deposited in devoted accounts and are used exclusively for employees to purchase, build and renovate their houses, and can be loaned to the employees for these purposes. The publicly accumulated housing funds are characterized by obligation, mutual help and housing security. In 1994, this system was implemented in cities throughout China. In 1999, the state issued the “Regulations for the Management of the Publicly Accumulated Housing Funds,” and reissued them in 2002, to ensure that the system functions in an institutionalized and standardized way. Now, an administrative system has been basically set up, which involves decision-making by the Administrative Committee of the Publicly Accumulated Housing Funds, operation by the Administrative Center of the Publicly Accumulated Housing Funds, deposit in devoted bank accounts as well as financial supervision. The publicly accumulated housing funds can be booked as cost of enterprises, and are exempt from personal income tax. The funds can also enjoy preferential low-interest loan policy. By the end of 2003, a total of 60.45 million employees throughout China had opened accounts for publicly accumulated housing funds, raising a total of 556.3 billion yuan, of which 174.3 billion yuan was withdrawn from the banks by employees for buying or building their houses or for retirement, and a total of 234.3 billion yuan was granted as personal housing loans to help 3.27 million employees’ families to purchase or build houses. The system of publicly accumulated housing funds has played an important role in the improvement of people’s housing conditions.
Generally Affordable and Functional Housing System
In 1998, the Chinese government decided to build generally affordable and functional housing. Affordable and functional housing means housing for which the government provides preferential policies, and sets the construction standards, the selling price and the users’ qualification criteria. It is policy-based, security-type commercial housing. Households meeting the following requirements can apply to buy or rent a suite of such housing: those having local registered permanent residence permits (including servicemen eligible under local resettlement standards) or those specified by the city or county government; those with serious housing problems – without housing of their own or with their current housing space below the standards set by the city or county government; households whose family incomes meet the income standard set by the city or county government; and households meeting other conditions set by the city or county government. A low-profit principle is maintained for such housing when it is sold or rented. Only after a specified length of time following the purchase of such housing may the owner sell it at the market, and a portion of the earnings therefrom must be turned over to the government. The purchase of this kind of housing must be subject to application, examination and public announcement, thus emphasizing public transparency and strict supervision and administration. From 1998 to 2003, the construction of 477 million sq m of such housing space was completed.
The Low-Rent Housing System
Since 1998, the Chinese government has made active efforts to promote the low-rent housing system and to continuously improve housing security policies. Temporary exemption of property tax and business tax is applied to publicly owned housing and low-rent housing lent out at prices prescribed by the government. Under the guidance of uniform state policies, the local governments have set up their own low-rent housing systems for urban minimum-income households in accordance with the level of local economic and social development. Such a housing security system, supported mainly by the government’s financial budget while the low-rent funds are pooled from other channels, is practiced in many ways – with housing rent subsidy as the major form, supplemented by the supply of basic furniture and rent deduction. For households whose incomes and housing space are below the standards set by the local government, the latter should ensure that their basic housing needs are met by application, registration and waiting one’s turn. In 2003, this low-rent housing system for minimum-income families was established in 35 large and medium-sized cities.
X. Social Security in Rural Areas
The majority of the Chinese people live in rural areas, where the economic development level is comparatively low. In the rural areas the land, as a means of both production and livelihood, is owned collectively where the contractual household output-related responsibility system is practiced. Under the influence of China’s traditional culture, there is a time-honored tradition of provision by the family, security coming from self-reliance and help from the clan. In accordance with the characteristics of rural socio-economic development, the state’s social security measures in rural areas are different from those practiced in cities.
Experimenting to Establish an Old-Age Insurance System in Rural Areas
The old-age security in China’s rural areas is centered mostly on families. In the 1990s, China began to try out an old-age insurance system in some of the rural areas in accordance with the actual level of local socio-economic development. In light of the principle that “the premiums are paid mainly by individuals themselves, supplemented by collectively pooled subsidies and supported by government policies,” an old-age insurance system with the accumulation of funds taking the form of personal accounts was established. By the end of 2003, the work of old-age social insurance had been carried out to various extents in the rural areas of 1,870 counties (cities, districts). Some 54.28 million people had underwritten the old-age insurance program, which had accumulated a fund running to 25.9 billion yuan, with 1.98 million farmers drawing old-age pension. In 2004, the Chinese government began to experiment with a system that supports and rewards households that practice family planning by having only one child or two girls in some of the rural areas. Each person of such couple may receive a minimum of 600 yuan a year from the age of 60 till the end of his or her life. This reward will be provided jointly by the central and local governments.
Establishing a New Rural Cooperative Medical Service System
In order to guarantee that farmers’ basic medical needs are satisfied, to alleviate their medical burdens and to address the problem of poverty caused by illness or prevent them from getting poor again because of illness, in 2002 the Chinese government began to set up a new rural cooperative medical service system based mainly on a financial-pool-against-serious-disease scheme. Farmers can participate freely in such a cooperative medical system, which is organized, led and supported by the government with funds coming from the government, collectives and the beneficiaries. At present, the system is being tried out in 310 counties (cities) in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government. By June 2004, the system had covered 95.04 million rural residents, with 68.99 million participants and 3.02 billion yuan in raised funds, of which 1.11 billion yuan was in the form of financial subsidies from local governments at various levels, and 390 million yuan was in the form of Central Government subsidies to the central and western regions.
Practicing Rural Social Relief
The “five guarantees” system was initiated in China in the 1950s. In 1994, the State Council issued the “Regulations Concerning the Work of Providing the ‘Five Guarantees’ in the Rural Areas.” It stipulates that elderly people, disabled people and minors meeting the following conditions in rural areas can enjoy the “five guarantees” of food, clothing, housing, medicare and burial expenses (compulsory education for minors): Those who have no legal guardian to provide for them, or whose legal guardians are unable to provide for them; those who have no working ability; and those who have no source of income. To take care of elderly people in the “five guarantees” category who cannot look after themselves alone, homes for the aged have been built, and have gradually become a major form of providing the “five guarantees” for the elderly. By the end of 2003, there were 2.545 million people covered by the “five guarantees,” and 24,000 homes for the aged providing accommodation for 503,000 elderly people in this category.
In view of the uneven economic development and the large disparity in financial conditions between regions, the Chinese government encourages areas with adequate capacity to establish a system that guarantees the minimum standard of living for rural residents. In other areas, the basic subsistence relief system covering destitute households is practiced under the principle of “government relief, social mutual help, offspring support and stabilized land policy.” Meanwhile, medical relief is provided for sick farmers who are in great difficulty. By the end of 2003, there were 12.57 million poverty-stricken people in rural China who enjoyed the minimum living allowance and subsistence relief for destitute households.
After years of experiments and practice, a social security framework with Chinese characteristics has taken initial shape. However, China still has a long way to go to develop its social security services to a satisfactory level. The aging of the population will put more pressure on the old-age pension and medicare expenditure, while the progress of urbanization will make the establishment and improvement of a social security system covering both urban and rural areas more urgent. More employees of non-state-owned businesses and people employed in a flexible manner will be covered by the social insurance system as employment forms become more diversified. All this will raise new requirements for the smooth operation of China’s social security system and for the establishment of a long-term mechanism which will ensure the sustainable development of the social security services.
To press ahead with the improvement of the social security system is an important task for the Chinese government in its efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in a comprehensive way. The increase in China’s overall economic strength as a result of the sustained, rapid, coordinated and healthy development of China’s national economy, the implementation of the scientific concept of overall, coordinated and sustainable development, and a social security system suited to China’s national conditions and established after many years of exploration, will pave the way for China’s social security system to develop continuously. In the years to come, the Chinese people will benefit more from the nation’s development and progress, and enjoy more plentiful fruits of its material civilization.
Click here for a listing of PRC-issued white papers on various topics.
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