The Chinese government is to increase the old-age benefit for rural people who observe the country's family planning policy, an official said on Tuesday.
Li Bin, director of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, announced that the annual 600-yuan (US$88) benefit paid to parents aged 60 and over would rise by 20 percent to 720 yuan.
At a work conference in Changchun, Jilin Province, Li said the increase would help rural families maintain their living standards when it came into effect next year.
The benefit is paid to every rural parent with one child or two girls under the government's "fewer children for faster prosperity" program launched in 2006.
The scheme also allows a one-off 3,000-yuan benefit to rural couples who are entitled to have three children, but voluntarily stop at two, along with other policies to support their incomes.
Last year, the government launched a trial program in 10 provinces and municipalities, including Jilin, under which parents with one child who was deceased or disabled could receive a monthly benefit of 80 to 100 yuan once the mother turned 49 if they did not adopt or have another child.
The government would start extending the program to other areas before the end of the year, Li said.
The government had paid out 4.5 billion yuan in benefits over the last four years.
The government began its family planning policy to curb rapid population growth in the early 1970s by encouraging couples to have only one child.
Farmers, who often have difficulty making ends meet with just one child, are allowed to have a second child with government approval, while people of some ethnic groups are allowed to have three.
The one-child policy, which was enshrined as a law in 2001, has prevented an estimated 400 million births over the last 30 years. Those who have more than one child without authorization can be fined and government employees can lose their jobs.
(Xinhua News Agency October 22, 2008)