Public Servants Lose Another ‘Iron Rice Bowl’

Xinhua, 11 January 2002

BEIJING, January 11 (Xinhua)—Some 990,000 public employees in the Chinese capital will have to bid farewell to free medical service, a privilege for civil servants and a large number of employees at non-profit-making organizations over the past decades.

Medical insurance and a fixed amount of subsidy will replace the traditional government-funded medicare for civil servants before July 1, Friday's Beijing Morning Post (BMP) quoted a source from the municipal labor and social security bureau as saying.

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security are working on a set of detailed rules on the issue, the paper quoted Zhang Dafa, an official in charge of medicare at the bureau.

Statistics show that some 2.16 million people in Beijing have got medical insurance by the end of last year, and the figure is expected to rise to 3.5 or 4 million by the end of this year and 6 million by the end of 2003.

The BMP report said Zhang's bureau will double its efforts this year to ensure full coverage of medical insurance among all in- service employees and retirees of Beijing-based government offices, non-profit-making bodies and all types of enterprises.

Free medicare and housing were among the major privileges for public servants in China, who were known as having iron rice bowls. The Chinese government started to put an end to welfare housing allocation in 1998, and called for more efforts on medical reform during the same year.