1. Poverty Alleviation in China
Poverty alleviation and elimination is one
of the largest challenges in the developing
process of China as well as of all other countries
in the world. With strenuous endeavour, China
has achieved great success in anti-poverty struggle
in past two decades. The population in poverty
dropped from about 250 million in 1978 to 125
million in 1985, as the continuous 7 years had
high speed of economic increase in rural areas.
Since 1986, Chinese government has been planing
and organizing a lot of large-scale anti-poverty
programs all over China. By the end of 1992,
the poverty population of rural China was reduced
to 80 million and poverty head counting rate
In order to accelerate the poverty alleviation
and to attain the aim of eliminating the poverty
at the end of this century, Chinese government
launched the "8-7 Plan" in 1994 to guide the
poverty reduction activities. The main point
of "8-7 Plan" is that the Chinese government
will basically eliminate the absolute poverty
in 7 years in this century through the tax favourite
policy, financial support and social-economic
development program. For the convenience of
implementing the "8-7 Plan", 592 poorest counties,
selected from more than 2000 counties of China,
were defined as 'national poor counties'. It
was estimated that more than 70% of the 80 million
poor concentrated in the 592 counties with very
bad natural environments and backward social-economic
conditions in 1994.
Through the 4 years effort, the poor population
of rural China was reduced to 42.1 million,
and the poverty head count rate is 4.6% by the
end of 1998.
2. Poverty Monitoring
As a part of the endeavour of poverty reduction
of Chinese government, the data from Rural
Household Survey of China has been used
to capture the national poverty incidence since
the middle of 80s. From 1994, Some regional
poverty monitoring systems were set up to reflect
to poverty information and to evaluate the impacts
of some regional anti-poverty programs. A National
Poverty Monitoring Survey has been carrying
out since 1997 to reflect and disseminate information
on the national poverty situation, to evaluate
the impacts of the poverty alleviation activities,
and to provide full map of poverty and its change
for policy-maker. District Economic Statistics
from administrate report is also used to evaluate
the poverty on regional level.
- Rural Household Survey
(RHS): RHS in China covers 31 provinces
and includes 857 sampled counties and 67,000
sampled rural households.
RHS focuses mainly
on income and expenditure of rural households,
and it also includes some information on other
subjects such as basic demographic characteristics,
fixed assets, production and consumption,
selling and purchasing, nutrition etc. A random
start point, multi-stage and systematic sampling
method is adopted in RHS. RHS collects the
household's information through a way, "Dairy
book + visiting"
Bureau (SSB) makes use of the data of RHS
in estimating the poverty criterion, poverty
incidence through analysis on the income and
expenditure, production and consumption of
households. RHS also is used to give out the
poverty distribution by province, natural
and demographic characteristics (such as size
and composition of household, education level
of household head, minority or non-minority
ethnic group etc).
The limitation of
RHS in the poverty evaluation. 1) it is limited
to measure income/ expenditure poverty due
to the shortage of social indicators. 2) It
is limited in evaluating the impacts of anti-poverty
programs. 3)It is limited in estimating the
poverty incidence by county.
- District Economic
Statistics (DES): DES on county level
or township level in China is mainly from
administrate report. It can be used to reflect
the improvement of poor areas on regional
as well as sub-regional level roughly.
- National Poverty Monitoring
Survey (NPMS). NPMS was established
in 1997. It's main aim is to get a deep understanding
of poverty distribution and its change of
rural China, to supply precise and reliable
ground for making policies concerning the
alleviation of rural poverty, to monitoring
the impacts and the processes of the anti-poverty
programs for the 592 national poverty counties
listed in the "8- 7 Plan". NPMS, covering
592 national poor counties, used the sampling
and data collecting method similar to the
RHS. Compared with RHS, NPMS includes more
indicators in social aspects such as rural
infrastructure, employment, education and
health. NPMS collects the information on personal,
household level as well as community level.
Hence NPMS can measure the poverty in the
term of income/expenditure, and also monitor
the social development in poor areas too.
3. Poverty Criterion for
For the rural China, the Poverty refers to
the absolute poverty and measured by income
Since 1986, State Statistical Bureau (SSB)
of China determined the poverty line according
to the fact of China and the method usually
adopted by the colleagues abroad. Food share
method was engaged to determine poverty line
for the benchmark year such as 1985 and 1990,
while consumer price index multiplied by poverty
line of previous year was used up to update
the poverty line for subsequent years.
The method of determining the poverty line
for 1990 is as follows:
Firstly, selecting the minimum calorie level.
2100 great calories per day per person was selected
as the minimum nutrition need suggested by nutritionists.
Secondly, selecting the food bundle which can
satisfy the minimum calorie level.
Data from Rural Household Survey was used to
calculate the actual food consumption structure
and food quantities (food bundle) that maintain
the minimum nutrition of low income population
in poor area.
Thirdly, calculating the minimum food expenditure
(food poverty line) with the prices of low income
group from the survey.
Last, estimating the poverty line.
In 1990, poverty line was the food poverty
line divided by a "reasonable food share". It
was 300 RMB yuan (annually per capita net income)
Although an objective food poverty line can
be obtained from food share method, it is difficult
to estimate an accurate non-food expenditure.
The 'reasonable food share' was determined subjectively
or on the experience of the experts.
An improved method of food share, formed by
was adopted by SSB to determine poverty line
and 1997. On the base of knowing food bundle
and the food poverty line, instead of using
the "reasonable food share", regression model
was used to estimate the minimum non-food expenditure
of the households with income just reaching
the food poverty line. A household that obtains
few non-food commodity by sacrificing the basic
food demand must be a poor one. The non-food
expenditure of those households was regarded
as the non-food poverty line (low non-food poverty
line). The food poverty line plus the non-food
poverty line equal to the poverty line. The
poverty lines was 640 RMB Yuan (annually per
capita net income) for 1997. It was is about
0.75 US$ (ppp) per day per capita. Poverty line
for 1998 is 635 RMB Yuan by multiplying the
consumer price index.
4. Problem encountered
and to solve
The existing poverty monitoring system of China
focuses on rural poverty, especially on the
592 national poor counties. It is estimated
that the proportion of the poor in national
poor counties is less than 50% of the rural
poor of China by the end of 1998. It is more
and more important to monitoring the poverty
out of those counties too in order to provide
overall information about the rural poverty.
Hence SSB is planing to enlarge the NPMS to
cover the poor out of the national poor counties,
to determine a unique criterion for poor village
and to provide the targets to the anti-poverty
As more labor migrants from rural to urban
areas, and the income gaps among urban residents
being larger, the poverty issue arises seriously
in urban China. Chinese government pays more
attention on urban poverty now. The poverty
statistics for urban areas are estimated through
the Urban Household Survey. Due to the indistinct
definition and content of urban poverty, there
are no unique poverty criterion, and then no
accurate poverty population data for urban China.
SSB, China has already realized the importance
of the methodology study on urban poverty statistics
and is preparing to cover the urban area by
the national poverty monitoring system of China.
Targeting to the tasks and the problems encountered
, SSB are going to adopt following measures
to improve the poverty statistics in China:
- Holding an international
seminar on poverty statistics. The experts
from the department of data providing, data
analysis and data using of China, as well
as colleague from abroad will take part in
the seminar. The topic will include a) the
definition, criterion of poverty both for
rural and urban China; b) how to organize/improve
the poverty monitoring survey in rural and
urban areas; etc.
- Providing training
to provincial staffs. Training causes will
introduce the method of estimating the poverty
criterion, poverty incidence and of data analysis
usually adopted in the world.