China PM Wen pledges narrowing income disparity, 8% growth in 2010

Updated: 08 Mar 2010
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Read more on China PM   Wen Jiabao   Hu Jintao   GDP growth   wealth gap   NPC & CPPCC  
Pledge to narrow gap welcomed
President Hu Jintao (left) shakes hands with Premier Wen Jiabao
at the opening of the annual session of the 11th National People's Congress
at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday
BEIJING - Premier Wen Jiabao's latest pledge to narrow the income gap comes at the most appropriate time, top legislators and advisors said.

The emphasis on fighting income disparity as well as raising social welfare and rural services is a direct response to the most pressing issues facing the country today, they said.

"We will not only make the social wealth pie bigger by developing the economy but also distribute it well on the basis of a rational income distribution system," Wen said in his government work report at the opening of the annual full session of the country's top legislature on Friday.

Wen's report mentioned the word "income" a record 28 times, the Legal Daily said.

The country's rural-urban wealth gap last year was also the widest since the start of the economic reform in 1978, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Urban per capita income in 2009, which stood at 17,175 yuan ($ 2,500), was more than three times the figure in the rural areas.

Apart from the rural-urban divide, the gap is also widening among different social strata within cities, said Zhao Xijun, deputy dean of the school of finance at Renmin University of China.

Zheng Gongcheng, a member of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, said the need to adjust the current distribution of interests is "an extremely grave task" in the next five years to bridge wealth gaps and sustain social justice.

Specifically, quantifiable indicators of a narrower wealth gap must be included in the nation's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), to be completed by the end of this year, said Chi Fulin, president of the China Institute for Reform and Development.

The hefty income of monopoly industries, which widens the income gap and worsens social equality, has also been under fire for months. In response, Wen on Friday said the government will deepen the reform of the income distribution system of these corporations and set strict standards for the income of their executives.

The premier also vowed to boost basic social security networks to include all members of society, especially those at its bottom, to "free them from worries".

Hukou reform

The government has also promised to reform its longstanding household residency system and ease restrictions on permanent residence registration, or hukou, in towns as well as in small- and medium-sized cities.

Hukou has long been blamed for systematically widening the gap between urban and rural residents. The system, which restricts people's residency to their hometown, also makes it difficult for migrant workers to enjoy welfare benefits in cities, Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Our ultimate goal should be to realize the free migration of all residents," Zheng Gongcheng said, adding that decision-makers have reached a consensus in reforming the hukou system and rapidly urbanizing China.

The government hopes that the hukou reform is able to expand the social safety net to include the country's 230 million rural migrant workers, amid growing debate over the need to integrate the laborers into urban areas.

Hu Xiaoyan, the first migrant worker to be selected as an NPC deputy and now an urban resident in Guangdong province, has proposed building communities for people like herself in each city.

Rural migrants who have just acquired urban hukou after years of hard work in the city should be offered affordable housing similar to those provided for low-income urban families, Hu said.

The migrants and their children should enjoy equal rights to public transport, schools and hospitals, she said.

Acting on his earlier vow to promote "greater dignity" among the population, Wen on Friday also announced plans to allocate 43.3 billion yuan ($6.3 billion) to boost employment this year. 
SOURCE: China Daily
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