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Ministry 'studying' rise in retirement age

By Feng Jianmin (Shanghai Daily)

08:16, June 07, 2012

An increase in China's retirement age is believed to be on the cards after a social security official said authorities would be putting forward such a proposal "at an appropriate time."

In an online conversation with web users, a spokesman for the Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security said: "Along with China's economic development and prolonged average life expectancy, postponing retirement is an inevitable trend."

At present, most men retire at 60 and women at 50 to 55.

The spokesman said opinion was still split within the ministry, with some saying that postponing retirement could increase labor efficiency and help balance the pension funds while others said extending working years could reduce opportunities for job seekers.

"Now the ministry is studying the issue," he said. "We will make suggestions at an appropriate time to delay receiving pensions after we fully consult the public."

Zheng Chenggong, a professor with Renmin University of China, told Xinhua news agency yesterday: "From an academic view point, to gradually raise the retirement ages is an inevitable choice due to increasing life expectancy."

Zheng Bingwen, a researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: "If the retirement ages remain unchanged, the current pension system will be unsustainable in the future."

Lu Jinghai, a committee member of the China Association for Labor Studies, told the Beijing Times that it would be appropriate to postpone retirement for five years.

"The impacted personnel could enjoy a higher salary for longer, and the increasing income of the pension fund would make the fund more sufficient," he said.

Chu Fuling, a chief researcher with the China University of Finance and Economics, said extending the retirement age could affect a huge number of people and if it was to happen it should be done in a flexible and voluntary way.

According to a ministry report on pension funds earlier this week, China accumulated a total of 1.95 trillion yuan (US$308 billion) by the end of last year. Income exceeded expenditure by 413 billion yuan, it said.

But economists say China will face increasing pressure on the pension funds due to an aging population and fewer young people.

A web user said on his microblog: "Most workers will have to work hard at an older age, and may enjoy less benefits because of the pressure on pension fund. But those working in state-owned companies and the public sector would only earn more, that's not fair."

In March, China launched a trial program to allow pension funds to invest in the domestic stock market in a bid to boost returns.

Shanghai started a trial program in 2010 to "generally" allow men to work until they are 65 and women to the age of 60.

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