On the 23rd of November, the State Council Information Office of China held a press conference on the poverty alleviation programmes organised by the government, charitable organisations and other social actors. Tang Chengpei, the Deputy Minister of Civil Affairs, quoted relevant data during the press conference, stating that there are over 100,000 poverty alleviation programmes operated by more than 60,000 charitable organisations across the country, and investment in these programmes was over 90 billion RMB (13.672 billion USD).
According to Mr. Tang, through collaboration between the government and different social actors, China’s poverty alleviation and social protection programmes have shown substantial positive results. There is a population of more than 20 million people who have been included under the social protection system for “low-income” (18.52 million) and “most vulnerable” (1.52 million) people. Since 2017, the benefits provided by the social protection system in the villages of all counties, municipalities and districts across the country have continued to meet or exceeded the minimum national rural living standard. After impoverished sections of the population are included in the social protection system, they do not suffer from any shortage of food and clothes.
The people categorised as “most vulnerable” under the social protection system includes those with disabilities. Some disabled people have fallen into poverty because their disabilities prevent them from applying for most jobs, while others face severe disabilities which mean they need full assistance to take care of themselves. The current social protection system covers 11.53 million people from the former group and 14.33 from the latter group.
As deputy minister Tang stated, these achievements have been made due to the great efforts made in five areas. First of all, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has been working together with other relevant institutions to continuously strengthen the system’s overall design. These efforts include improving basic systems such as the rural minimum living standard, setting up specific measures to protect the welfare of orphans and left-behind populations in rural areas (including elderly people and children) and people with disabilities, and establishing effective mechanisms and laws to facilitate the comprehensive reform of social aid.
Secondly, much more attention is being paid to special groups so that social protection can be guaranteed. “Special groups” refers to people with severe illnesses, people with disabilities, populations in extreme poverty, orphans, children without actual guardians, wanderers and left-behind people in the villages consisting of children, women and the elderly.
Thirdly, coordination between government bodies, charitable organisations, social workers and volunteers has been continuously improving, based on the actual situation of the target groups. For example the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Poverty Alleviation Office of the State Council and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation have shared information and data on the targeted groups with each other, and conducted regular checks of the accuracy of the information and data. The Ministry of Civil Affairs also creates momentum to encourage other actors in society to work together and fill the gaps where the state is not able to reach.
Fourthly, resources are collected to help key areas overcome poverty along with other prominent issues. There are three regions and three prefectures that have been designated as the most poverty-stricken areas of China; the three regions are the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan Provinces, and the Hetian Region in southern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, while the three prefectures are the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province and the Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture. Financial resources have been mobilised to be concentrated on those areas, to support those who have newly fallen into poverty due to unforeseeable factors in their lives. The elderly are also given special attention in the poorest areas, to make sure that they are provided with life’s necessities.
Finally, strict supervision has been applied to poverty alleviation programmes, and evaluations are conducted regularly. Field visits to poverty-stricken regions are paid by members of the party groups within the Civil Affairs departments with the aim of detecting existing problems in programmes, and report them to appeal for changes and improvements. Over the past three years there have been regular checks to ensure full coverage for the part of the population in genuine need.
This year, the General Office of the Chinese Communist and the General Office of the State Council have jointly published the Opinions on Reforming and Improving the Social Assistance System, which further puts forward clear requirements to make the social assistance and protection system more complete. In detail, the document advocates the creation of a multi-layered aid system; a mechanism to encourage local organisations to find people in need and individuals to look for help through social aid hotlines; an innovation social emergency aid system, so that when citizens encounter sudden difficult situations they are able to get immediate help and apply for small amount of funds to meet their needs; and finally, a simplified social assistance and protection system which also promotes transparency of information, so that tedious and long procedures can be avoided.