China studies delayed retirement reform program in light of aging trend

China’s elderly population is expected to exceed 300 million in the next five years, with the working population plummeting by 35 million, official figures show. China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said on Friday (Feb. 26) that it is working with relevant departments to study specific reform proposals for delayed retirement.

Chinese Vice Minister of Human Resources and Social Security You Jun was asked about the aging population and delaying the retirement age at a press conference held at the State Information Office. He said the implementation of a “gradual” delay in the statutory retirement age would be conducive to the full utilization of China’s human resources, promote coordinated economic and social development, as well as enhance the sustainability of the social security system and better protect people’s basic livelihood.

He said: “Delaying the retirement age is a common practice in countries around the world to cope with population aging. In recent decades, most countries have raised the retirement age to varying degrees, and now the retirement age in the world’s major economies is generally above 65 years old.”

Youjun said that the best solution will be identified based on drawing on internationally prevailing practices and experiences and considering China’s realistic national conditions, cultural traditions and historical past.

In response to a question about the pension insurance system, Youjun said the establishment of a multi-level pension insurance system is an important initiative to actively respond to the aging population and promote the sustainable development of the pension insurance system. Among the three levels of pension insurance system in China, the basic pension insurance system as the first level has been basically sound. The enterprise pension system and occupational pension system as the second level have been initially established and are being gradually improved, while the personal pension system as the third level has not yet been introduced.

China is one of the countries with the fastest aging population. At the end of 2019, the proportion of China’s population aged 60 and above was about 18%, and it is expected that the elderly population will exceed 300 million between 2021 and 2025, moving from light aging to moderate aging. The China Development Report 2020: Trends and Policies on Population Aging in China predicts that by 2050, China will have close to 500 million older people.

At the end of 2020, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee adopted the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) and the 2035 Visionary Goals, which proposed to “implement a national strategy to actively deal with population aging”. China’s two sessions of the National People’s Congress will be held next week, which may focus on the issue of China’s aging population.

In addition to an aging population, China’s record low birth rate is one of the main reasons for the demographic imbalance. China has been encouraging childbirth in recent years, and the communiqué of the fifth meeting of the 18th Communist Party Congress in 2015 pointed out that the policy of two children per couple will be fully implemented. But the policy change does not seem to have provided much impetus for China to increase its birth rate.

According to China’s Ministry of Public Security, a total of 10.035 million newborns will be born in 2020 and registered with public security organs, a drop of about 15 percent compared to 2019, a figure that is also nearly 680,000 less than the number of applicants for the 2020 college entrance exam.

Analysts believe that the high cost of housing, Education and health care in China in recent years, combined with social issues such as employment discrimination, have become a stumbling block for many Chinese people having children.

According to Reuters, a top finance ministry official previously expressed concern at an internal meeting about China’s aging population and lower birth rate, “A gradual delay in the statutory retirement age must be combined with a reform of the social security system. The average retirement age in China is less than 55, and the portion of the general public budget to subsidize pensions each year has been growing over the years, making it difficult for the treasury to bear in the long run.”

He also mentioned that although China’s two-child policy has been liberalized, the cost of raising a child is too high, and the policy should start with lowering the cost of universal parenting, which is now unaffordable to have and raise. The senior official said, “The policy involving the population should start quickly, and if it does not start again, we may have to introduce fertility subsidies, we can calculate how long it may take from Family planning to fertility subsidies, the situation does not wait for people ah.”