Govt denies immediate plan for retirement age rise

08:26, September 17, 2010      

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China's human resources authorities are seeking to relieve growing public concerns over the government's reported consideration to lift the retirement age in response to a financial shortage facing the country's pension fund.

"China has no immediate plan to adjust the retirement age," an unidentified official of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MHRSS) was quoted as saying on Thursday by People's Daily.

"Related government departments are only researching some proposals of delaying retirement age but it does not mean the current regulation on retirement age will be changed soon," the official said.

The retirement issue has triggered public concerns after Wang Xiaochu, vice-minister of MHRSS, said last Friday that the government is researching the possibility of delaying the retirement age.

The current legal retirement age in China is 60 for male workers and officials, 50 for female workers and 55 for female officials. The law dates to 1978.

Men laborers working in arduous conditions, such as in high-temperature environments, can retire at 55. Women laborers in this category can retire at 45.

Workers can receive money monthly from the government's social security fund after they retire, but they have to pay into their social security account for at least 15 years before they retire.

Wang's remarks, amid a number of academic reports about China's enormous pension burden in a rapidly aging society, has prompted the public to expect an increase in retirement age.

China will become the most aging society in the world by 2030, according to a recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The country's 60-year-old-and-older population will account for 28 percent of its total by 2040, according to a forecast from the United Nations.

A white paper issued by the MHRSS predicted that due to the aging of the population, every two taxpayers would have to pay for the social security expense of one retired person in 2035. The current situation is every 3.5 taxpayers pay for one retired person.

Estimates predict that if the retirement age was delayed by a year, the shortage of the social security fund would be alleviated by 20 billion yuan ($2.94 billion), according to a report of the Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News.

But the idea of raising the retirement age has worried many laborers who bear heavy workloads but are paid very little. After retirement many expect to receive stable pensions. Some will receive more money in pensions than they earn when they are working.

University graduates also fear that lifting the retirement age could reduce their employment opportunities.

More than 90 percent of 200,000 participants in an online poll expressed their opposition to delaying the retirement age, according to a report of Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily.

The delaying of the retirement age is supported mostly by government officials, who do not have to pay into the general public's social security system, as they have their own separate retirement funds.

Laborers and non-government workers hold the opposite view, because they have to pay social security bills before retirement, said People's Daily.

Government officials would get the most benefit from the retirement age rise, because they could possess political power for a longer time, the Henan-based Dahe Daily quoted netizens as saying.

"We have to do lots of tough work every day before retirement, and I doubt whether I could keep such high efficiency at the age of 65," Wang Youhua, 28, an IT worker in Beijing, told China Daily on Thursday. "I just want to retire earlier and get my social security fund."

Yang Yansui, a labor expert with Tsinghua University, said China's retirement age is low, compared to many other countries.

Raising the retirement age is a trend worldwide and the government should put the issue on its agenda, but different approaches should be adopted when targeting different groups of people, she said.

For example, an employee could negotiate with his or her company whether to retire or continue working after he or she reaches retirement age.

Government officials could have their retirement age lifted, but not on a negotiation basis, Yang said. Male and female officials could have the same retirement age, she added.

Ding Jie contributed to this story.

By Chen Xin, China Daily


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