More government spending on social assistance is urgently needed, according to an official report tabled on Wednesday at an ongoing legislature session in Beijing.
Civil Affairs Minister Li Liguo made the remark while presenting a government social assistance reportfor deliberations by lawmakers at the session.
In addition to summarizing the progress made in the area over the last
five years, the report also identified potential problems, as well as steps that the government will take in the future.
Greater fiscal support for social assistance is urgently needed to ensure that people in tough circumstances can share the fruits of economic and social development, Li said, adding that China's social safety net is not large enough to keep up with demand.
"In a considerable number of areas, local governments have failed to provide living subsidies for needy groups in rural areas according to standards," he said.
Needy people refers to handicapped people, the elderly and minors who are not able to work, and have no legal guardians or income.
A lack of professional workers and funding for county-level civil affairs authorities has also made it more difficult to handle social assistance tasks, he said.
Qualification procedures for potential social assistance recipients must be improved in order to safeguard social equality and justice, according to Li.
In some regions, people who failed to meet the requirements for social assistance were able to get government subsidies through improper channels, including through connections with civil affairs workers, he said.
That is partly because civil affairs authorities cannot access the recent financial information of government subsidy applicants due to limitations set by the Commercial Banking Law.
The government will hasten its efforts to identify low-income households by improving the social assistance system, he said.
Local governments should improve management and supervision regarding social assistance and achievements made in the area should be recognized, according to Li.
He said greater efforts will be made to adjust the minimum living standard appropriately to reflect rising prices in some regions.
The report said coordination among multiple policy systems should be improved in order to guarantee basic living rights and conditions for people living in poverty.
An inter-departmental communication mechanism will be set up to increase policy consistency and ensure access to basic welfare systems, such as those related to health care, education, housing and employment, Li said.
China will accelerate the establishment of a multi-level information-sharing system for verifying the financial backgrounds of social aid applicants, he said.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, or China's top legislature, began a four-day bimonthly session on Tuesday to deliberate draft laws and review government reports.