White paper outlines anti-poverty gains, priorities amid UN Sustainable Development Goals

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On April 6, the State Council Information Office (SCIO) issued a white paper on poverty alleviation detailing China’s success in eradicating absolute poverty. In a speech given the same day, Xu Lin, director of the SCIO, expressed the white paper marks a milestone in the holistic reflections of the development of China’s efforts in poverty alleviation.

Based on China’s poverty line, the white paper reveals significant improvement in the livelihood of people living in poverty, especially those residing in rural regions. It also pushes for more critical social security services for groups that face social challenges like people with disabilities.

Chinese context amid the Sustainable Development Goals

Hong Tianyun, deputy head of Group Office in Poverty Alleviation and Development explained the current poverty alleviation strategies are based on multifaceted synthetic indicators which take into account both income and human development. In comparison with the UN SDGs, China’s standard is higher than the absolute poverty line set by the United Nations in 2015 for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, the Chinese standard is $2.30 a day, forty cents higher than the World Bank’s absolute poverty line of $1.90 a day.

Income on itself is not the sole determinant in the Chinese context; both social security services and income are primary determinants of poverty. Income relates to whether the average income exceeds the poverty line and social security refers to sufficient access to basic necessities, education and social welfare. The government evaluates poverty alleviation by measuring the fluctuations in the number of people that fit the aforementioned profile.

Shift toward underprivileged groups

Over the course of eight years, up until the end of 2020, 98.99 million rural residents have been lifted from poverty, which includes 832 counties and 128,000 villages reaching above the poverty threshold. Since the beginning of the Reform and Opening Up policy, poverty alleviation programmes aided 770 million rural residents. If understood in context with data from the World Bank, China’s scope of poverty alleviation accounts for more than 70 percent of global poverty alleviation in the same period. In terms of the disposable income of villages in low-income regions, disposable income increased from 6079 RMB ($928.36 USD) in 2013 to 12588 RMB ($1,922.51 USD) in 2020, which is an average of 11.6 percent of annual growth since 2013.

As another component of China’s poverty alleviation strategies, children’s welfare has become a growing focus over time. In implementing the Chinese Children Development Initiative (2011-2020) and the Development for Children in Poverty Regions (2014-2020), six-month-old to twenty-four-month-old infants are now provided with free nutritional supplements on a daily basis. As of the end of last year, this programme covers 11.2 million children.

A consistent rise in pensions and increasingly lower costs of medical insurance have benefited more than 36.8 million in China’s elderly population. Additionally, 7 million people with disabilities have been lifted out of poverty. Welfare payments and patient care institutions have benefited more than 24 million people with disabilities according to the paper, allowing 10.7 million people with disabilities to enjoy basic medical coverage.