BEIJING - China's premier on Friday (March 15) has spoken of the challenges the country faces as it continues on its march towards building a moderately prosperous society by 2021.
Premier Li Keqiang singled out the "woefully lacking" elderly care and childcare services in the country, the high cost of healthcare for many people and the plight of millions of rural migrants who are at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.
At a press conference after the end of China's annual legislative meetings, he pledged increased government support saying issues concerning people's livelihoods were of "paramount importance".
Mr Li noted that China, with 175 million people above the age of 65, had only three places at an elderly care facility for every 100 senior citizens. In some cities, people would have to wait until they were 90 before they would be able to get a place in a nursing home, said Mr Li, adding that childcare facilities were also insufficient.
These were problems that affected most Chinese families, he said, adding that the government would extend tax breaks to providers of such services.
He also highlighted the problem of "inaccessible and expensive medical care," pointing out that the government was extending extend health insurance coverage this year to cover drugs for high blood pressure and diabetes, which affects some 400 million people.
Turning to the country's 280 million rural migrant workers, who take on low-paying jobs that keep cities humming, Mr Li said the government would formulate laws this year to ensure employers pay these workers in full and on time.
Other impending goodies included the removal of highway tolls within two years, and the reduction in the cost of internet access by 20 per cent this year.
The latest session of legislative meetings focused largely on China's economy and on domestic issues, with a key issue being ensuring employment.
"Any issue related to people's lives is of paramount importance and there are still a lot of things in this respect that the government must do," said Mr Li.
The world's largest developing country, China wants to become a moderately prosperous country by the centenary of the founding of the ruling-Chinese Communist Party. Apart from eradicating poverty this would mean raising the living standards of urban and rural residents and improving their access to services such as healthcare.