China’s plan to put back the retirement age will be a gradual process rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach, a leading government researcher has told state media.
The proposal prompted by the county’s ageing population sparked uproar on social media after it was announced on Friday with critics saying it was unfair to make them work longer than expected because the shrinking labour force was the result of government policies.
Jin Weigang, the head of the social security research institute of the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, told state news agency Xinhua that the retirement age would rise by a few months every year.
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“For example, in the first year of the implementation of this policy, women who originally retire at the age of 50 will retire at the age of 50 plus one or more months. The retirement age will vary for different age groups. That is to say, there will be a number of years of transition,” Jin said.
“What is certain is that in the early stages of the reform, people who are about to retire will only be delayed by one month or a few months, and will not retire a few years later.”
He added that young people may have to work a few years longer but will have “a long adaptation and transition period”.
The proposals to take “small steps” towards raise the retirement age were set out in the country’s new five-year plan and a development strategy that will run until 2035.
You Jun, the vice-minister for human resources and social security, said on Friday that his department is working with the relevant departments to draw up a plan for delaying retirement, and it will “widely solicit opinions so as to make it as acceptable as possible to all”.
China’s mandatory retirement age has remained unchanged at 60 for men and 55 for women – or 50 for blue-collar women – for the past 40 years.
Earlier this month Xinhua reported that the authorities were considering two proposals: one to raise the retirement age for both men and women to 65, while another plan would see the retirement age for women raised to 60 first, before the age for both sexes rose to 65.
Strict rules about the number of children families are allowed have left China with a shrinking workforce and ageing population.
The number of over-60s in China is now projected to rise from 200 million in 2020 to 300 million in 2030 and 460 million in 2050, while the fertility rate has continued to remain low even though the one-child policy was finally scrapped in 2016.
Meanwhile, China’s state pension fund is already under pressure from an ageing population and shrinking workforce, which has prompted warnings it could run out of money by 2035.
Last year, the national social security fund, which includes pensions, ran at a deficit of 671 billion yuan, (US$103 billion) the first shortfall recorded since the Ministry of Finance started including the fund in its annual budget report in 2013.
People born after 1980, most of whom are only children, are already under huge pressure to support their parents and their own families, have complained that they are now being asked to work for longer while facing a risk that the pension fund will run dry by the time they reach retirement age.
Many internet users complained that the public were having to bear the consequences of the one-child policy.
Comments on the social media platform Weibo said “the government wants us to work to death” and one wrote “so the government wants to rush from socialism to capitalism with our blood and lives”.
This article China’s plan to raise retirement age will be gradual process, government researcher insists first appeared on South China Morning Post