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Subsistence Allowance System Benefits Urban, Rural Poor Equally

Urban and rural Chinese with financial difficulties benefited "equally" from the government's minimum living allowance system last year, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Thursday.

The number of rural beneficiaries hit 34.5 million at the end of 2007, an increase of 19.48 million or 128.7 percent from the previous year, figures in a report released by the ministry showed.

And more than 22.7 million low-income urban residents received minimum living allowances last year, an increase of 300,000 people year-on-year.

Under the system, subsidies vary by region according to economic conditions, but the basic requirement is to enable low-income people in urban and rural areas to have adequate food and clothing.

The average allowance in 2007 was 182.4 yuan (US$25) in urban areas per person each month and 70 yuan in rural areas, according to the report.

The allowance in rural areas was less than that in urban areas because living costs in rural areas were lower.

The rural minimum living allowance system was formally established last year in all 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities of China, 10 years after the system was set up in urban areas.

The State Council, or the cabinet, issued a circular in July last year to introduce the system in all rural areas.

Beneficiaries include villagers who suffer chronic living difficulties because of illness, disability, aging, or poor living conditions.

Official statistics showed that China had 21.48 million rural people with an annual income less than US$85 at the end of 2006.

(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2008)

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