91% Oppose Raising Retirement Age: Survey

08:37, September 15, 2010      

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An ongoing online survey on qq.com, a popular Chinese news portal, found that 91 percent of its over 800,000 respondents were against raising the current official retirement age.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, 745,123 of those surveyed said they opposed raising the retirement age, while only 72,456 supported it.

Chinese scholars and the public have been debating whether to raise the retirement age for the past few years, but the issue rose to prominence last Friday following remarks from an official.

Wang Xiaochu, the official who is the vice minister of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said at a press conference that the government was studying the matter in response to a question on whether China would raise the retirement age.

The retirement age in China is generally set at 60 for men and 50-55 for women.

Many opponents in the survey said raising the retirement age would put more strain on the already grave employment situation, as adding working years for those now employed would mean fewer openings for new job seekers.

As about 3 million people out of the 110 million employed in urban areas reach retirement age each year, and a higher retirement age would mean three million fewer job openings, Zhang Chewei, vice director of the Institute of Population and Labor Economics of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said in a report on qq.com.

The labor market in China is already oversupplied, Yin Chengji, the ministry's spokesman, said at the same press conference that 24 million people would enter the job market this year but only 12 million jobs were available.

However, others in the survey said a higher retirement age would help to solve the problem of "empty accounts" in pension fund.

The volume of these empty accounts was estimated to be 1.3 trillion yuan (191 billion U.S. dollars) by another CASS expert, Zheng Bingguo, according to media reports in July.

But according to Ma Li, a labor economist and a counselor to the State Council, China's cabinet, the empty account was an unavoidable byproduct of any new pension system and should be funded by the government.

Prior to the establishment of the public pension system in 1997, pensions were covered by employers and counted as part of their running cost in China. That means the system had no initial funding to begin with.

The "empty account" thus refers to the pension payments of working employees that are spent on paying off the currently retired.

"The empty account is no justification for raising the retirement age.The pension fund has a surplus now, and it will only run into a deficit in the 2030s'" Ma said.

The government should raise the retirement age only when there is a severe labor shortage, relatively high pension payments or the government is in a fiscal crisis, she said, adding that China now had none of these three scenarios.

But she agreed with some of the surveyed that the retirement age should be raised among professions that require years of experience to master, such as doctors and lawyers.

Source: Xinhua


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