Beijing set to raise retirement age 'in 2022'

BEIJING • Starting next year, China will put in place a plan to raise the statutory retirement age to relieve social and fiscal pressures stemming from an ageing population.

"The plan is likely to be implemented in 2022 after a five-year transitional period," said Mr Jin Weigang, a researcher with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

China's retirement age is 60 for most men, 55 for female white-collar workers and 50 for female blue-collar employees.

Mr Jin, who made the comments while attending a forum on pension funds on Saturday, did not elaborate on what changes might be made in the retirement ages.

He said the Chinese government could learn from flexible retirement policies in other countries, Xinhua news agency and other state media reported yesterday.

Analysts have long warned about China's state pension having a severe funding shortage. Some estimate the cash shortfall could rise to be nearly US$11 trillion (S$15.5 trillion) in the next 20 years, according to Reuters.

Mr Jin was quoted as cautioning that a retirement policy change should allow flexibility and take into account the needs of various labour groups, and "should not consider only the revenues and expenditures of the pension fund".

For years, China's policymakers have said it is only a matter of time before the official retirement age is raised to alleviate pressures from a shrinking workforce.

The number of people aged between 16 and 60 fell by 4.87 million to 911 million in 2015, the fourth consecutive year of decline, official data showed.

A government study has found that raising the retirement age by one year would increase annual pension payments by four billion yuan (S$860 million) and cut spending by 16 billion yuan.

Last year, Mr Yin Weimin, who heads the nation's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said raising the retirement age would be a gradual, multi-year process. The ministry proposed to raise the retirement age by a few months each year, taking a steady approach to the first revision of China's official retirement policy since the 1950s, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Economics professor Feng Jin from Shanghai's Fudan University said raising the retirement age alone will not fix the country's demographic woes.

What's more important is that the government works towards adjusting the nation's population structure, Caixin magazine quoted him as saying. China scrapped its one-child policy last October and couples are allowed to have two children starting this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing set to raise retirement age 'in 2022''. Print Edition | Subscribe