China has over 600 million people whose monthly income is barely 1,000 yuan (USD 140) and their lives have further been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Premier Li Keqiang said on Thursday.
"The average per-capita annual income in China is 30,000 yuan (USD 4,193), but there are over 600 million people whose monthly income is barely 1,000 yuan (USD 140), not enough to rent a room in the Chinese cities," Li said while addressing his annual press conference here.
He said many families encountered difficulties due the COVID-19 impact.
Li said that China now faces a daunting task in slashing absolute poverty.
Before the novel coronavirus struck, there were about five million people living below the official poverty line. Because of the disease's impact on the economy, some have fallen back into poverty.
"This year we are determined to end poverty as scheduled," Li said. "This is a solid commitment made by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core to the whole of the Chinese society," he said.
Li said the government has decided to expand the coverage of subsistence allowance and unemployment benefits. Some 60 million people in China still live on a subsistence allowance or receive unemployment benefits or other support projects, he said.
Some 30 million Chinese senior citizens live on a pension and the central government has decided to raise their pensions, Li said.
China's economic policies in coping with shocks of the novel coronavirus will focus on keeping jobs and protecting people's livelihoods, he said.
He ruled out big stimulus package to spur economy. In his work report to the National People's Congress on May 21, Li did not fix a GDP target for this year sighting uncertainties.
China's economy contracted to 6.8 per cent in the first quarter for the first time since 1976 due to coronavirus lockdowns.
Li said China's GDP in 2019 reached 99.1 trillion yuan (USD 14 trillion), representing a 6.1 per cent increase over the previous year.
China will take targeted measures instead of a massive stimulus to boost economic growth, Li said.
"Our measures of a fairly large scale are designed to provide vital relief to market entities and revitalise the market with a particular focus on ensuring steady employment and people's livelihoods," Li said.
Li said money invested in the people will be able to generate new wealth, help protect and preserve tax sources, and make public finance more sustainable.
"We will do our utmost to keep China's economic growth stable, and at the same time we must ensure that all measures taken are well-calibrated," he said.
The country has policy reserves in fiscal, financial, social security and other fronts, and will promptly introduce new measures without any hesitation if necessary, Li said.
Keeping China's economic fundamentals stable itself will be a contribution to the world and China will remain a positive force driving global economic recovery and growth, he added.
First Published: IST