A government official announced improvement in literacy levels across China, state media reported. State Councilor Chen Zhili, speaking before an international conference on illiteracy in Beijing, announced that China's illiterate population was shrinking at the rate of 2 million per year. Chen credited a US$46 billion yearly education program with reducing rural illiteracy. Ninety percent of China's illiterate population lives in the countryside, where educational programs are often under-funded and enforcing truancy rules is difficult. Chen concluded by saying that while serious improvements had been made, more effort was necessary. China's illiteracy rate is estimated at 9%, slightly higher than the overall rate for Asia but considerably lower than the world rate of 20.3%.