Full Text: Progress in China's Human Rights in 2009

IV. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

In 2009 the Chinese government undertook the protection of the people's economic, social and cultural rights as a major task throughout the process of advancing the steady and rapid socioeconomic development of the country. To cope with the international financial crisis, it adopted effective measures, with emphasis on solving problems in such fields as employment, health care, social security, and education which affect the immediate interests of the people, and achieved remarkable results.

The right to employment is protected. In 2009 China appropriated 42 billion yuan for the increase of job opportunities, a rise of 66.7 percent over the previous year. In 2009, 11.02 million new job opportunities were created and 5.14 million laid-off workers were reemployed in urban areas of China; the registered unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in urban areas; the employment rate of that year's college graduates reached 87.4 percent; and the number of rural migrant workers totaled 145 million, an increase of 4.92 million over the previous year. The government helped 186,000 people in earthquake-stricken Wenchuan to find jobs, ensuring that at least one person in each household had a job.

China has developed vocational training to enhance people's employment qualifications. In 2009 the state issued the Notice on Implementing the Special Plan for Vocational Training. In accordance with the Notice, China decided to implement a special plan for vocational training from 2009 to 2010. The plan focused on addressing the employment needs of workers affected by the financial crisis and providing vocational training for four groups of workers, namely employees of crisis-stricken enterprises, rural migrant workers who had lost their jobs and returned to their hometowns, urban unemployed people, and new entrants to the job market. In 2009 the state gave vocational training to over 21.6 million person/times, including vocational training to 2.6 million person/times of enterprises with difficulties in their operation, new-job training to 11 million person/times of rural workers, reemployment training to 4.5 million person/times of urban unemployed people, preparatory training to 2.4 million person/times, and entrepreneurship training to 1.1 million person/times.

The legitimate rights and interests of workers are protected in accordance with the law. In 2009 the state formulated the Guiding Opinions on Responding to the Current Economic Situation and Stabilizing Labor Relations, giving full play to the tripartite labor relations mechanism to keep enterprises afloat, to ensure employment and to maintain social stability. In 2009 labor security supervision organs nationwide conducted inspections of 1.75 million employers, involving 90.298 million workers; investigated and addressed 439,000 cases of law violation regarding labor security; urged employers to sign labor contracts with 10.737 million workers; recovered 8.92 billion yuan of defaulted wages for 5.931 million workers; and demanded that employers pay 4.64 billion yuan in overdue social insurance premiums for their workers. Labor dispute arbitration organs at all levels filed and heard 684,000 cases of labor disputes and mediated 178,000 labor disputes. The settlement rate of such cases in that year was 10.8 percent higher than in the previous year, effectively contributing to the building of harmonious labor relations.

In addition, the social security system has been further improved. In 2009 the central treasury put 290.6 billion yuan into social security, 16.6 percent higher than in the previous year. By the end of 2009 the number of people participating in unemployment insurance had reached 127.15 million, an increase of 3.15 million over that of the end of 2008, while the number of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits was 2.35 million, a decrease of 260,000 from the end of 2008. In 2009 the number of people participating in basic medical insurance topped 1.2 billion, a national coverage rate of over 90 percent. An additional 83.25 million people participated in medical insurance for urban employees and urban residents, bringing the number of people in urban areas with medical insurance to over 400 million. The number of rural residents participating in the new rural cooperative medical service system reached 833 million, an increase of 16.3 million over 2008. The maximum payments by urban employees' medical insurance, urban residents' medical insurance and new rural cooperative medical service system equaled about six times the average wages of local employees, per capita disposable personal income of local urban residents, and per capita net income of rural residents, respectively. Moreover, the reimbursement rate of medical insurance has continued to increase. In 2008 and 2009 the state appropriated a total of 50.9 billion yuan to solve medical insurance problems for retirees of state-owned enterprises that had gone bankrupt or closed down. By the end of 2009 the number of people participating in basic pension insurance had reached 235.5 million, an increase of 16.59 million or 7.6 percent over 2008. The new rural social pension insurance system was implemented on a trial basis in 320 counties (county-level cities or districts) in 27 provinces and autonomous regions, and four municipalities directly under the central government, 11.8 percent of the administrative units of those areas. The pilot program covered 130 million rural residents, including 15.3 million people 60 years old and above. By the end of 2009 over half of the provinces in China were practicing the pooling of funds for work-related injury insurance at city level, and most of the provinces had established the reserve fund system for work-related injury insurance. The number of people participating in work-related injury insurance had reached 148.96 million, an increase of 11.09 million over the previous year. The 2009 figure included 55.87 million rural migrant workers, an increase of 6.45 million over 2008. In 2009 the number of people covered by maternity insurance was 108.76 million, an increase of 16.22 million over the previous year. In 2009 a total of 1.74 million people enjoyed the benefits of maternity insurance.

Citizens' right to education is guaranteed. By the end of 2009 some 99.7 percent of the school-age population had access to nine-year compulsory education, and 99.5 percent of counties in China had provided nine-year compulsory education. In urban areas 96.64 percent of first-year elementary school students had received pre-school education, while in the rural areas the figure was 88.55 percent. In the same year, 99.4 percent of school-age children were enrolled in elementary schools, and 99.31 percent of them completed five years' study at elementary schools. Roughly, close to 99 percent of the children in the 12-14 age group were enrolled in junior high schools, and 94 percent of these children completed their three-year courses at junior high schools. About 79.2 percent of the children in the 15-17 age group were enrolled in senior high schools. In 2009 the enrollment of college students was 6.395 million, an increase of 318,000 over the previous year, and the enrollment of postgraduate students was 511,000, an increase of 65,000 over 2008. China attaches great importance to education in rural areas. In 2009 the central treasury appropriated 58.7 billion yuan as special funds for the promotion of compulsory education in rural areas. The funds included 35.7 billion yuan for public expenses, 13.8 billion yuan for supplying free textbooks, 5.1 billion yuan for the maintenance and renovation of school buildings, and 4.1 billion yuan for living expense subsidies for boarders from poor families. The state exempted 130 million rural students from sundry fees and textbook charges for compulsory education, and earmarked living expense subsidies for 11 million boarders from poor rural families in central and western China at the rate of 500 yuan per elementary school student per year and 750 yuan per junior high school student per year. In all elementary and middle schools in rural areas across China, the annual minimum budgets of public expenses for each elementary school student and for each junior high school student reached 300 yuan and 500 yuan, respectively, in the same year. By the end of 2009 over 6,063 buildings of junior high schools in rural areas of central and western China had been renovated, covering a total area of 12.81 million sq m. An investment of over 11 billion yuan was put into the distance-education network project for rural schools. The money was used to buy equipment for 360,000 rural elementary and middle schools in 23 provinces in central and western China and the Production and Construction Corps of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The equipment included a total of 402,000 sets of audio and visual players, 279,000 sets of TV-computer equipment receiving education programs from satellites and 45,000 computer rooms with multimedia installations.

China has improved the system of providing assistance to poor students. In 2009 the central treasury earmarked 9.28 billion yuan in national scholarships for secondary vocational schools, providing financial aid to nearly 12 million students, or 90 percent of the total number of first- and second-year students in these schools. The central treasury also appropriated 2.4 billion yuan for these schools to exempt poor rural students and students taking agriculture-related programs from tuition for the autumn semester. About 4.4 million students in these schools benefited from this fund. In 2009 the central treasury earmarked 600 million yuan in educational assistance funds pooled from lottery earnings for public welfare to give financial aid to 600,000 senior high school students from poor families. A 7.05 billion yuan national scholarship fund was assigned to colleges, benefiting 4.6943 million college students nationwide. Student loans became available in 24 provinces, and 22 had extended loans to students in 2009. The same year witnessed an additional of 600,000 students receiving the student loans. When the 2009 autumn semester began, 532,500 poor students were enrolled by colleges through the express "green channels." These students accounted for 95.5 percent of extremely poor students, 36.1 percent of students from poor families and 9.1 percent of all new students.

In the meantime, the people's cultural life is being increasingly enriched. By the end of 2009, China was publishing 43.7 billion copies of newspapers, 3.1 billion copies of periodicals/magazines, and 7 billion volumes of books. The country had 2,478 art troupes, 3,214 cultural centers, 2,833 public libraries, 1,996 museums, 251 radio stations, 272 TV stations, 2,087 radio and TV stations, and 44 radio and TV stations exclusively for education purpose. There were 173.98 million cable TV users, and 62 million users of cable digital TV services. The overall population coverage rates of radio and TV broadcasting were 96.3 percent and 97.2 percent, respectively. In 2009 China made 456 feature films and 102 other films including popular science films, documentaries, animated cartoons and so on. By the end of 2009 China had 4,035 archive institutions, giving the public access to 79.91 million files.

The building of a public cultural service system covering both urban and rural areas has been accelerated, and service capabilities and levels have been markedly enhanced. In 2009 there were 2,850 public libraries and 3,223 art and cultural centers at and above the county level, and 38,736 cultural stations across China. A total of 1,749 museums had offered free access by the year 2009. Since February 7, 2009 the National Library has reduced or eliminated charges for some of its services.

The national cultural resources sharing project transforms the country's excellent cultural resources to digital format, and then disseminates them through the Internet, satellite, television and mobile phone networks, enabling the building and sharing of the best of our cultural heritages across the nation. By 2009 some 757,000 service outlets at all levels for cultural resources sharing had been established. The volume of shared digital cultural information had reached 90 TB, including 70,132 hours of video resources, 52,691 titles of e-books and 3,604 e-periodicals. Of these, 1,510 hours of video resources and 1,250 titles of e-books were available in five minority languages, namely, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uyghur, Kazakh and Korean. By the end of 2009 the cultural resources sharing project had provided services to 700 million people.

In 2009 the state invested 407 million yuan in sports-for-all projects. The Regulations on National Fitness, promulgated by the state, was China's first specialized administrative document comprehensively and systematically regulating the development of national fitness undertakings in such aspects as administrative mechanism and national fitness plans and activities. The Regulations on National Fitness was also the first national regulations to stipulate that citizens have the right to participation in national fitness activities in accordance with laws.

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