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Official Vows to Improve Lives of Elderly Chinese

Chinese Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju visited impoverished elderly families in Beijing on Monday to tell them the government would provide more financial help.

The promise comes just before the "Chong Yang Festival" or Double Ninth Festival, on Tuesday. The ninth day of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar has been designated Seniors Day and is traditionally known as the "Old Men Festival".

"The government will make every effort to give more funds to assist the aged who have economic difficulties," said Li. "At the same time we want to mobilize society to participate in the assistance of elderly citizens, so as to foster a favorable social atmosphere."

Li said respect for the elderly was a traditional Chinese value. Taking care of them and letting them share economic and social achievements was an important component of a harmonious society.

He urged all government sectors to learn about the difficulties and problems of seniors, especially the impoverished, at grassroots level and to come up with effective solutions.

China has about 150 million people aged 60 or above, 11.6 percent of the total population.

Li said government was improving pension standards and extending the social assistance scope so as to improve living standards of the elderly.

The government was also trying to speed up reform of the medical insurance system to provide adequate medical services.

Figures from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security show that by the end of last year, 201.37 million people were receiving the basic old-age pension in urban areas, while 51.71 million people were covered by the rural old-age pension system.

Last year, 39.2 million farmers obtained pensions, 370,000 more than the previous year.

(Xinhua News Agency October 8, 2008)

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