The national retirement age should be extended in stages to 65 for both men and women by the year 2045, the head of a social security think tank official has suggested.
The proposal by He Ping, director of the Social Security Research Institute under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, is the first to include a timetable for the controversial change in labour policy, which has long been debated.
It comes on the heels of a comment at the weekend by Chen Wenhui , vice-chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, who told The Beijing News that there was a huge shortfall in the national pension fund. Without giving a specific figure, Chen said the government subsidised the basic pension scheme to the tune of more than 1 trillion yuan (HK$1.22 trillion) in the past 10 years.
He Ping proposed that the policy be implemented from 2016, with a one-year increase in the retirement age every two years until it reaches 65 for everyone. At present, the retirement age is 60 for men, 55 for woman in the civil service and 50 for other working women, the Beijing Times reported, citing a forum discussion about the ageing population, held on Sunday in Beijing.
The proposal is strongly opposed by internet users. More than 95 per cent of about 4,300 people who took part in a four-question survey on Cq.qq.com, a news portal based in Chongqing , had by last night opposed extending the retirement age. Just over half of those against the plan said they feared it would make finding a job even more difficult, and 41 per cent said they wanted to be able to retire early and still claim pensions.
Last month, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security issued a statement confirming that it was reviewing options for raising the retirement age, and thereby the age at which a person could claim a pension. The ministry said it would propose such a change 'when all segments of society had reached a similar opinion'.
The change is believed to be unavoidable, as the country is facing a huge shortfall in its pension scheme.
Last month, research by two economists with the Bank of China and Deutsche Bank Greater China forecast that the gap between future liabilities and assets of the mainland's pension fund would be 18.3 trillion yuan by next year.
The nation has 185 million citizens aged above 60, and the number is set to grow to 480 million by 2050, by which time they will make up a third of the population, according to figures given at Sunday's forum.
A study by the Global Pension Fund Research Centre under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences indicated that the working-age population would drop from 970 million in 2010 to 870 million in 2050. After peaking at 998 million in 2015, it would shrink by an average of 3.66 million annually.
'The ageing problem not only puts a heavier burden on the working-age population, but indicates a serious reduction in the nation's workforce as well,' said centre director Zheng Bingwen .
Li Jun , director of the Institute of Quantitative and Technical Economics under the academy, estimated that the country would face a severe shortage in its workforce from 2030 onwards.
Cai Fang , director of the academy's Institute of Population and Labour Economics, said: 'It is a natural thing for us to think of extending the retirement age. It would not only increase the labour force but also delay the age at which pensions can be withdrawn. But I don't think we should start this right now.'