Pension program to cover 60 percent of China’s rural areas

China plans to expand a piloted pension program to 60 percent of its rural areas this year, an increase from the original target of 40 percent, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang said Friday.

Zhang made the remarks during a visit to the cities of Yulin and Baoji in Shaanxi Province that lasted from Wednesday to Friday.

The new program has made progress, as its policies and measures have been redesigned to attract rural people and basic pensions have been doled out on time, Zhang said.

China launched a pilot pension program for its 800 million-strong rural population in August, 2009, as part of efforts to narrow the standard-of-living gap between rural and urban residents.

Any rural resident over the age of 16 who does not take part in the government’s existing urban pension scheme is eligible to join the government-subsidized program.

Farmers over 60 will receive a monthly endowment of varying amounts set according to their area’s standard income levels after paying a fee to join the program.

In the past only China’s urban dwellers were covered by the national pension system and old folk in the countryside had to depend on their children to take care of them.

By the end of 2010, the pension program for rural residents has covered 24 percent of the country’s counties.

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