6 Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty

Where we are

 Chinese farmer

Since the reform and opening up in the late 1970s, the Chinese Government has implemented extensive poverty alleviation with an aim to secure the subsistence, i.e., food and clothing, of poor rural residents. By the end of the 20th century, it had managed to reduce the poor rural population without food and clothing from 250 million to 32 million, lowered its proportion in the total rural population from 30.7 percent to 3.5 percent, basically fulfilling the goal of ensuring the subsistence of poor rural populations. Based on the latest national poverty line of RMB 2,300 (2010 constant price) in terms of the per capita annual net income of peasants, China’s poor population declined from 165.67 million in 2010 to 98.99 million in 2012, which is a remarkable achievement. The significant results that China achieved in poverty reduction have made outstanding contributions to the global poverty alleviation effort, accounting for a reduction of 76.09 percent of the world’s total poor over the period 1990–2005.The Chinese Government has always attached great importance to grain production and made food security its primary goal of agriculture development. China has made great progress in grain production, increasing output from 305 million tons in 1978 to 590 million tons in 2012.

Target 1A: halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day

China is the first developing country to achieve its poverty reduction target ahead of schedule. The basic needs of poor groups in both urban and rural areas are largely met and the poor population is decreasing. From 2007 to 2012, the Government put in a total of RMB 554.3 billion for the minimum subsistence guarantee of nearly 75 million poor urban and rural residents. By the end of 2012, the poor residents covered by the minimum subsistence guarantee system accounted for 5.6 percent of the total population. The national average minimum subsistence allowance is RMB 330 per person per month for urban residents and RMB 2,086 per year for rural residents.

China has cooperated with other countries to fight poverty, signing poverty reduction agreements or building poverty reduction centres with more than ten developing countries like Brazil and Tanzania to share experience, to help people shake off poverty more quickly, and to pursue common development and progress.

China’s sustained high growth is a major reason for its reducing poverty. Additionally, rapidly developing social assistance systems have been important. Rural poverty reduction is an important component of government planning, with Leading Groups for Poverty Reduction including multi-sectoral participation and national poverty reduction standards being altered according to the level of economic development.

As the largest developing country in the world, the general level of China’s economic and social development is still not high. China still has a large poor population. Nearly 100 million people are still in poverty and need to shake it off according to the new poverty line (RMB 2,300 per year for each resident) set by the Chinese government. There is imbalanced development in different regions and in poor groups with particular needs – such as minority people, the disabled, the old, women, children. Pressures to stop people slipping back into poverty are growing; the international financial crisis, as well as more frequent national disasters, highlights the vulnerability of the poor and may drag some of them back into poverty. Poor areas are four times more likely to be hit by national disasters than the national average. The public service system is far from perfection, and there is not equal access to public services for urban and rural areas. Additionally, data collection should be improved so that assistance can be better targeted.

Target 1B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people

The Chinese government has attached great importance to employment and livelihood issues and has taken the promotion of employment as an important approach to promote economic development, improve people’s livelihood and address problems and issues related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers. In the past decade, over 100 million new jobs were created in urban areas, while on average 11 million jobs were created annually. The registered urban unemployment rate remained below 4.3 percent. The productivity rate has also increased; this is mainly due to improved labour quality, economic growth, technological progress and integration into the world economy.

The Chinese government attaches high importance to the employment of young people, setting up schemes to help graduates enter the workplace or set up their own businesses. The government has promoted the employment of women, implementing a financial discount policy for small loans to women and setting up women’s federations at all levels to support women.

There are challenges relating to the amount of people employed informally, causing difficulties for the achievement of decent employment. The emergence of urban poverty will constitute a challenge to the fulfilment of the MDGs. China will have to face an ageing population – in 2012, the total working age population decreased for the first time in decades. Talent cultivation should be transformed: industrial enterprises are finding it hard to recruit qualified technical workers, but many college graduates cannot find satisfactory jobs.

More endeavours should be made to improve working conditions and environment, vocational training, law enforcement and employment quality. Legislative and policy measures should be taken to narrow the income gap among different groups and create a favourable environment for equal access to employment.

Target 1C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

The proportion of people with food consumption below the minimum energy requirement dropped from 17 percent in 1990 to 7 percent in 2002, indicating that China had met the target ahead of schedule. Chinese children’s nutrition is improving, while rural–urban gaps are narrowing in areas such as body growth (height and weight). Second, malnutrition continues to decline. In 2010, China’s underweight children accounted for 3.6 percent of all children under five, a decrease of 74 percent compared with 1990. The growth retardation rate was 9.9 percent, a decrease of 70 percent compared with 1990.

The government views grain production as the most important factor for reducing hunger. The government therefore has strict protection systems for arable land, aiming to ensure no less than 120 million hectares of arable land nationwide by 2020. China aims to increase technological input to agriculture from 0.5 percent to the world average of 1 percent as soon as possible. Agricultural infrastructure, particularly with regard to water, will be developed. China has also been aiming to improve food safety.

Nevertheless, challenges remain. P19sect3Grain production is more and more subject to growing resource and ecological constraints; and there will be greater challenges in the future for achieving complete self-sufficiency in food. There are significant differences between urban and rural areas in terms of the nutritional status of children and this also differs between regions. The improvement of the child nutrition status in rural areas is unstable and is vulnerable to the impact of economic conditions and unexpected events. The nutritional status of migrant and left-behind children needs to be improved.

Our work in China

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1.69 years
until 2015

1990 2015
Targets for MDG1
  1. Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day
    • Proportion of population below $1 (PPP) per day
    • Poverty gap ratio
    • Share of poorest quintile in national consumption
  2. Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people
    • Growth rate of GDP per person employed
    • Employment-to-population ratio
    • Proportion of employed people living below $1 (PPP) per day
    • Proportion of own-account and contributing family workers in total employment
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
    • Prevalence of underweight children under-five years of age
    • Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption