China raises poverty line, boosting official poor

AP News
Posted: Nov 29, 2011 11:42 PM
China raises poverty line, boosting official poor

Even with its booming economy, China now has more poor people _ at least officially.

A sharp upward revision in the official poverty line, announced by the government Tuesday, means that 128 million Chinese in rural areas now qualify as poor, 100 million more than under the previous standard.

The new threshold of about $1 a day nearly doubles the previous amount. While the revised poverty line is still below the World Bank threshold of $1.25 a day, the change brings China closer to international norms and better reflects the country's overall higher standards of living after three decades of buoyant growth.

The old limit, first set in the 1990s and notched up periodically thereafter, focused on the bedrock poor at a time China was still largely rural and impoverished. As the country has climbed toward middle income status, experts from the World Bank and Chinese think tanks have urged the government to raise the threshold to capture more poor Chinese.

"The previous poverty line underestimated the number of poor people in rural China," the official newspaper China Daily quoted Wang Sangui, a rural development expert at Renmin University, as saying. "Only 2.8 percent of the rural population was officially considered poor, which was lower than in many developed countries such as the United States, which has a poverty rate of about 15 percent."

With the higher threshold, more people qualify for government assistance. Funding for poverty relief is also being raised more than 20 percent this year to 27 billion yuan, or $4.2 billion, the China Daily reported.