Applicants for welfare to face tougher scrutiny

Updated: 2012-10-24 23:34

By HE DAN (China Daily)

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Applicants for welfare subsidies will have their household income and assets checked, a process that will become standard practice across the nation, Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo proposed to the country's top legislature on Wednesday.

To reduce nepotism and unfairness in processing applications, it will be mandatory to make records of subsidy recipients if they are relatives of staff members in social welfare departments, or community or village officials, Li said during a report to Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

A system to verify the eligibility of welfare subsidy recipients and information sharing among different government departments will be established by 2015, according to a statement on the ministry's website released on Monday.

The statement explained that 11 ministry-level departments had jointly issued regulations to verify the eligibility of low-income urban households. Some local civil affairs authorities have also piloted a system that requires the collection of a welfare applicant's information, including household registration, employment status, savings, tax payments, vehicle and securities and stocks.

Li proposed the lawmakers speed up the issuing of a dedicated law to guide the development of social relief work.

He said, without legal basis, civil affairs authorities cannot promptly verify the bank accounts of applicants of welfare subsidies as commercial bank law protects individuals' privacy.

The promulgation of a law on social safety nets has been listed on the National People's Congress' legislative plan, he said.

The government allocated more than 400 billion yuan ($64 billion) for low-income residents in rural and urban areas from 2007 to 2011, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

More than 75.82 million residents, accounting for 5.6 percent of China's population, received minimum living subsidies by the end of 2011, Li said.

The government has worked on adjusting the allowance amount in accordance with inflation, he said, adding that in June the average minimum living subsidy for a poor urbanite was 238 yuan a month, 130 percent higher than 2007, and 109 yuan for a villager, 180 percent higher compared with 2007.

Ge Daoshun, an expert in social policy with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the creation of laws regarding social relief work is urgent for China.

"Social assistance is an effective way of wealth redistribution to ensure social justice," Ge said.

"Given that the money is from taxpayers, we need a law to stipulate how the money should be spent, to clarify procedures for application and qualification verification and other important things," he said.

Lu Xuejing, director of the social security research center at the Capital University of Economics and Business, said migrant workers in cities are currently excluded from the social assistance programs in cities, as hukou, meaning household registration, is the precondition for all welfare subsidies.

"Migrant workers face the risk of being hit by poverty, unemployment and disease. Cities should gradually provide necessary assistance for them," she said.