6 Mar 2010

Premier says rich - poor gap in China must be narrowed

6:36 am on 6 March 2010

Premier Wen Jiabao of China has told the National Peoples Congress in Beijing that the government must do more to bridge the gap between rich and poor to ward off unrest.

In a two hour speech in Beijing's Great Hall of the People at the start of China's annual parliamentary session, he said benefits of a growing economy - expected to expand by 8% this year - should be distributed more fairly.

Mr Wen said China would reform the household registration system that classifies people as either city or rural dwellers.

This system means many migrant workers - farmers who travel to towns and cities to find better-paid work - are unable to get proper services.

"[We will] gradually ensure that they receive the same treatment as urban residents in areas such as pay, children's education, healthcare, housing and social security," he said.

But the BBC reports Mr Wen did not outline what policies would be introduced to achieve that aim, and when they would come into force.

He also said reforms would be carried out only in towns and smaller cities.

Mr Wen also said the economy needed restructuring. He wants Chinese companies to improve their ability to innovate, producing high-tech and high-quality products.