Coronavirus News Asia

Virus impact threatens China’s poverty targets

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Although China is claiming success in its battle against the coronavirus, millions have lost their jobs in the economic fallout, throwing into jeopardy an ambitious target to eradicate poverty this year.

Beijing has been working to fire up the economy again after bringing it to a near standstill to curb the spread of Covid-19, but many firms have had a bumpy restart and workers are bearing the brunt of the pain.

Despite being a country of skyscrapers and high-tech innovations, China still has millions of people on meagre incomes.

About 5.5 million rural Chinese live in poverty, defined by the government as surviving on less than 2,300 yuan ($326) a year.

A slowing economy puts pressure on a key Communist Party goal to become a “moderately prosperous society” by the end of 2020, an ambition in place long before the virus emerged.

It also threatens a long-held tacit agreement between people and party that freedoms can be sacrificed in return for economic progress, an understanding that largely forms the basis of the authoritarian government’s legitimacy in the absence of elections.

China has little in the way of social security benefits and workers who lose their jobs have an inadequate safety net, meaning mass unemployment often brings a fear of unrest.

Official statistics show jobless numbers have soared, with roughly five million more people out of work between December and February.

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