China to make millions more eligible for poor relief

China to make millions more eligible for poor relief

Beijing: The number of Chinese eligible for special poor relief will triple to more than 43 million people after the government raises the official poverty line in 2009, state media reported Tuesday.

Currently 14.8 million Chinese are considered to earn below the poverty line, set at 785 yuan ($115) a year, but that number will soar once the government hikes the threshold to about 1,100 yuan, the China Daily said.

The poverty line is the minimum level of income considered by the government to be necessary to obtain enough basic goods and services to subsist.

Raising the poverty line means that more people will be covered by China’s poverty relief schemes, according to the report.

The central government has a budget of 16.7 billion yuan for relief programmes this year, 2.3 billion yuan more than last year, it said.

That figure could rise next year, and not just because more people will be officially living in poverty.

Migrant workers who are laid off and forced to return home because of the economic slowdown could slip back into poverty, the report said.

The decision to raise the poverty line was made in October as the government announced stepped up poverty-alleviation efforts in rural areas, the Caijing magazine reported Friday.

The number of poor people in China is relatively small compared with its overall population of 1.3 billion because the poverty line is set low, the magazine said.

The move to raise the poverty line was done because of the rising cost of living in China, it added.

“China’s poverty line will remain quite low even after the new standard is set," said Liu Fuhe, a senior official with the poverty alleviation office under the State Council, or cabinet, according to the report.

He said China’s poverty population probably exceeded one hundred million according to the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty - living on less than one dollar per day.

China first announced a poverty line in 1985, with people making less than 200 yuan a year deemed to be living in poverty. The threshold has increased gradually since then.

The China Daily said more than 200 million people across the country had been lifted out of poverty since 1978.