The retirement age for mainlanders will inevitably be put back as China feels the pressure of its ageing population, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said yesterday.
"Postponing the retirement age would objectively help ease society's burden of caring for the ageing population," ministry spokesman Li Zhong said.
Under mainland law, men retire at 60 and women at 50. Li said this should be changed to keep pace with rising life expectancy, which today is 75.
Li said the ministry was collecting opinion and would propose detailed ideas to top leaders "on condition that a consensus is gradually reached and when the time is right".
Leaders would also choose the right time to launch a centralised basic pension fund scheme. Currently, pension policy varies among provinces and directly-controlled municipalities.
In a survey of 3,000 mainlanders by the Guangzhou-based Canton Public Opinion Research Centre in April, 54 per cent of respondents opposed delaying retirement and 26 per cent showed support while the rest were undecided.
Li said the population aged 60 or above was forecast to grow by more than eight million every year. The mainland now has some 200 million elderly, 15 per cent of the total population, according to official data.
Professor Yang Yansui - who led a Tsinghua University study in August that proposed raising the retirement age - said change would be required in at least three areas.
"Above all, one should get a greater pension if retirement age is postponed," she said. "Second, a modern service industry, especially one based on elderly care, should be boosted to absorb the senior labour force so they won't take job opportunities away from young people."
She added that a bigger percentage of pension funds paid by workers and their employers should go to the workers' personal accounts.
The Tsinghua study sparked much outcry as it suggested revising the retirement age up to 65 for most men and women.
Wang Xiangqian , a lawyer specialising in employment, was among the first academics to propose delaying retirement five years ago when he was a university professor.
"It would be impossible for China's social pension fund to break even at the existing retirement age," he said.
A report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences showed that in 2012, about two-thirds of provincial governments' pension funds failed to make ends meet. The worst offenders were Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, each more than 20 billion yuan (HK$25 billion) in debt.
Not everyone agrees with raising the retirement age. "Where can a person aged 55 to 65 find a job?" asked Wang Lishi, a public servant in Suzhou , Jiangsu province. "Even if he gets a job as a doorkeeper or street cleaner, who would pay for his pension and health insurance?"