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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

60 Million in poverty?

VOANews.com:

"Since China started opening its economy to the rest of the world a quarter century ago, about 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty. "

Interesting figures and if true a remarkable and commendable result. These figures do give rise however to an interesting debate as to what constitutes poverty?

China says about 60 million citizens still live in abject poverty and they claim the "poverty Line" is less than $79 a year. Apparently this figure is also called the "benefit line" by the Chinese, the figure below which people can apply for government benefits.The World Bank on the other hand estimates that China's truly poor number around 200 million as they use the international standard of living on $1 a day to measure poverty.

China counter claims that the poverty line figure of $1 per day does not take into consideration subsidised housing.

I suppose that only those actually living in poverty in China can tell us a true figure. Obviously there is some merit in what the Chinese say. Housing costs are a very significant determinate of discretionary income, ( I am defining discretionary income here as total income less tax less basic housing) however the difference between $365 per annum and $79 per annum could not surely be put down to housing costs.

The bottom line, as Bruce Murray, who heads the Asian Development Bank's mission in Beijing is quoted as saying in the article is that China needs a broader welfare system to provide a safety net for marginalized groups.

This is particularly true as it concerns the elderly. The one child policy introduced in China 25 years ago will increasingly impact negatively on the welfare of the aged as traditionally children provided significantly to the financial support for aged parents, less children means less support.

Despite being very much still in a developmental stage China should be in a position to widen social security safety nets to some degree, especially for the aged and disabled two of the most vulnerable groups in China.

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