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Report on the Work of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee(3)

17 March 2009 822 views No Comment

3. Focusing on solving the problems affecting people’s well-being

Putting people first and promoting the resolution of problems affecting people’s well-being are another focus of the work of the Standing Committee. We combined legislation with oversight in our work. While improving our work, we also strived to enact and improve laws and while working on legislation, we also strived to more effectively investigate compliance with laws and carry out work oversight, thus strengthening the connection between the work of the NPC and people’s well-being and making the NPC’s work even more practical.

Because food safety affects the people’s health and safety, deputies to the NPC and all sectors of society attach great importance to this issue. In response to the serious problems revealed by the defective Sanlu milk powder and other major food safety scandals, the Standing Committee revised the draft Law on Food Safety based on in-depth investigations and studies and a wide range of opinions.

First, to effectively strengthen oversight and management of food safety, in addition to prescribing that all relevant competent authorities shall exercise oversight within the scope of their duties and responsibilities, the revised draft law stipulates that the State Council shall set up a food safety commission to coordinate and guide food safety work. It also stipulates that local people’s governments at and above the county level shall have overall responsibility for and lead, organize, and coordinate oversight and management of food safety within their administrative areas.

Second, to address the misuse of food additives, the revised draft law follows a principle of prescribing non-use, use of appropriate amounts or use of lower amounts and clearly stipulates that food additives shall be used only if they are technically necessary and have been proved safe through risk assessment. When the use of a food addictive is necessary, food safety standards shall be strictly followed in deciding the category, scope and concentration of the additive. No chemicals other than food additives and no materials that might be harmful to people’s health shall be used in food production.

Third, annual sales of health food of every conceivable description have exceeded 100 billion yuan. Without proper oversight in place, people cannot tell what is genuine from what is fake, making it difficult to decide which products to purchase. To address this problem, the revised draft law stipulates that the State Council shall quickly work out regulations to standardize production, restore order in the distribution market and strengthen oversight and management in order to boost the confidence of consumers.

Building on the work of the last Standing Committee, this Standing Committee carried out another investigation of compliance with the revised versions of the Law on Compulsory Education and the Law on the Protection of Minors. We also investigated compliance with the recently promulgated Law on Labor Contracts. These investigations have a direct bearing on the well-being of 170 million primary and junior secondary school students and over 360 million minors and the immediate interests of hundreds of millions of workers. The issues involved in these laws are all concerns of deputies to people’s congresses and the general public. We looked closely at actual conditions in society and uncovered significant problems in the enforcement of laws and then submitted important suggestions on implementing a funding mechanism for compulsory education, increasing funding for compulsory education, cleaning up the cultural environment of the Internet to which minors are exposed and doing more to solve the problem of wages in arrears, especially those of rural migrant workers. Our suggestions, which were carefully studied by the State Council and relevant departments, helped to more effectively enforce the law and improve work.

First, the funding mechanism for compulsory education was implemented in accordance with the law, and funding for compulsory education throughout the country increased by a large margin. Per capita budgetary expenditures for primary and junior secondary school students increased significantly over the previous year. The central government also increased funding for the renovation of school buildings in the central and western regions of the country.

Second, relevant departments of the State Council jointly carried out a special campaign to clean up objectionable and unhealthy online material, strengthen management of Internet content and severely crack down on illegal and criminal behavior dangerous to the young, thereby improving the online cultural environment and winning acclaim from the general public.

Third, promulgation of the Law on Labor Contracts has brought about greater awareness of the importance of labor contracts, and significantly increased the number of labor contracts concluded. Some 93% of employees working for large enterprises signed their labor contracts across the country. The average term of newly concluded contracts was also longer. Employment and reemployment efforts were intensified and protection of the rights and interests of workers of enterprises, especially rural migrant workers, was strengthened. In light of the latest developments and problems facing employment efforts, Standing Committee members pointed out at their meeting that we must strongly support the development, transformation and upgrading of small and medium-sized enterprises, adopt whatever means necessary to stabilize and expand employment, prevent accumulation of wages in arrears and huge layoffs and work hard to solve the problem of too few workers concluding labor contracts in the service and construction industries and in small and medium-sized enterprises and private companies in order to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of all workers and ensure harmonious labor relations.

In order to improve the social security system and help dispel the worries of workers, the Standing Committee made big changes to the draft Social Security Law on the basis of initial deliberation by the last Standing Committee. Specific rules were formulated in the five chapters concerning old-age insurance, medical insurance, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance. Clear provisions were set out to address issues of greatest concern to workers, such as transfer of basic old-age insurance accounts between regions, and the need to improve overall planning for basic old-age insurance funds and tighten regulation of social security funds. These changes have been widely applauded by the general public, and we are improving the draft law in light of the suggestions received. The Standing Committee also revised the Law on the Protection of Disabled Persons, adding more provisions prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities and strengthened protection of their rights and interests in matters such as rehabilitation, education, employment, social security and handicap-accessible facilities.

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