China draft law of social insurance draws nationwide debate
www.chinaview.cn 2009-02-19 21:53:35   Print

    BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- China's draft law on social insurance, which aims to create a universal safety net for all the country's 1.3 billion people, has fueled nationwide debate since it was opened to public comment last December.

    Over a 50-day time span ending Feb. 15, the country's top legislature had received a total of 70,501 suggestions and proposals, the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee said in a statement Thursday.

    The proposals, written on the NPC website by netizens or sent to the top legislature by letter, were from people all over the country, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, the statement said.

    The social insurance draft, which underwent its second reading by the NPC Standing Committee last December, specifies a common right for citizens, urban and rural alike, to pay premiums and enjoy old-age pensions and insurance for medical care, work injuries, unemployment and childbirth.

    Many netizens agreed that the law is urgently needed as the government strives to expand domestic consumption in the face of the international financial crisis.

    "I believe domestic consumption will increase if people don't have to worry about old age and expensive medical fees," an anonymous netizen wrote on the NPC website.

    China has established several policies concerning social welfare since 1984. By 2008, about 219 million people have pensions and about 317 million have basic medical insurance. An additional 124 million have unemployment insurance, 138 million have work injury insurance and 91 million have childbirth insurance.

    Fu Yan, a migrant worker employed by a Beijing household management company, said both she and her husband do not have any insurance. "I didn't know anything about insurance when I signed a contract with the company. All I wanted then was a job," said 28-year-old Fu, who is from southwest China's Sichuan Province.

    "There are a lot of migrant workers like me. It's OK now since I am still young, but I do worry about the future. I definitely hope the law could help us have insurance, like pension and medical insurance," she said.

    To address the concerns of migrant workers, the social insurance draft law allows Chinese citizens to pay pension premiums in one place and draw money in another, if they migrate to other cities or provinces. This stipulation is particularly significant as the country has a much more mobile population than in the past.

    The draft also determined that a new rural medical system, in which farmers and governments raise funds together, would be included in the medical insurance plan.

    Meanwhile, governments will cover medical insurance expenses for citizens who live on low-income subsidies, have serious disabilities or are older than 60 years, the draft said.

    The draft also highlights more efficient fund management. Governments at municipal, provincial and the state-level should encourage and support the public's participation in supervising insurance funds. Any individual or organization has a right to complain or report illegalities.

    Many netizens agreed that the law will be a "blessing" to many people once it was adopted, especially to low-income groups.

    "Many migrant workers, laid off workers and unemployed people don't have any insurance. I think government should increase investment and put them under the safety net to build a harmonious and stable society," one netizen wrote.

    But not all feedback was positive. Some people complained the draft was too general.

    "Articles in the draft are too simple and authorize too much power to the local government," Tan Zhongxiao from central Hunan Province wrote on the NPC website. "Social insurance law has a direct bearing on everyone. I think the law should be more specific so that there will be no problem when being implemented in the future."

    The draft will be further revised based on the public's proposals before it is passed on to lawmakers for the third reading later this year, according to the Commission for Legislative Affairs.

Editor: Wang Guanqun
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