Health insurance and poverty reduction become China’s top priority. However, the country is still lagging behind some other emerging economies in public spending on education, health care and social assistance.
Social spending only accounted for 8% of China’s economic output in 2016. This rate in the countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is 22%. The United States spends 20% of its economic output on health care and other social programs, while China’s share is on par with Mexico and lower than South Africa.
In recent years, China has expanded its social services to help the elderly and disabled. However, in Wuhan, social services stopped after the city was blocked. Many neighborhoods are stripped of their right to health care, food supplies and social assistance.
Do not know to buy online
Many people are left alone. According to some volunteer groups in Wuhan, the local government is working hard to control the epidemic so it is difficult to meet the needs of the elderly and the disabled.
Many elderly deaf people have difficulty reading and cannot access important information about the disease. After the city banned residents from leaving their homes, Cui, 66, sneaked out and saw shops and markets closed.
Like Ms. Zhang, Ms. Ye, a disabled woman, has to live on government subsidies. She used 30 USD of which, equivalent to 1/5 of the allowance, to buy medicine. Food costs also skyrocketed.
A cucumber price increases to nearly 1 USD, pork prices nearly tripled compared to last year. “My family lives on meager sums. I want this to end as soon as possible, ”she wrote painfully.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, public employees in Hubei used applications like WeChat to share information and organize commodity sales for residents. However, many older people are not proficient in WeChat, they cannot use their phones to buy food.
Hu Jin, a volunteer in Wuhan, said: “During a 6-hour shift in an apartment building, about 10 elderly people complained that the goods were too expensive or they didn’t know how to order online”. Within a week, a volunteer group received more than 1,300 requests for assistance from isolated children and the elderly.
Each month, Ms. Zhang and Ms. Ye receive a grant from the Wuhan government. Both describe the money as their savior. Zhang doesn’t have health insurance, can’t go to school. She taught herself to read and do math.
The introduction on Zhang’s Weibo wrote: “The good things in this life seem to have nothing to do with me.” But in the neighborhood chat group on WeChat, when Ms. Zhang complained about commodity prices, another said: “The poor should move back to the countryside. They will be happy there, they can grow their own vegetables”.
She understands that other neighbors fear the seller will stop shipping if they still complain about the price. “There are many poor people in the world. But when others ask why you are poor, you cannot explain it”, she said.