BEIJING - China's top labor official said the country is planning to push back the age at which workers can retire.
Yin Weimin, minister of human resources and social security, did not put a timetable on the move when he spoke about it during a forum at the weekend.
"Delaying the retirement age is a very complicated issue and we will study it according to the situations of population and employment and consider different groups of people," Yin said.
He noted that hikes in the retirement age have been brought in by many countries and can be a good way to deal with an aging population and ensure the healthy and stable development of social security.
The life expectancy of Chinese people is now 73 years and is expected to rise to 74 during the next five years, he said.
Nearly three out of 10 Chinese people will be older than 60 by 2040, according to a United Nations forecast.
The retirement age in China currently is 60 for men and 55 for female civil servants and 50 for female workers.
The idea of delaying the retirement age is being widely supported by government officials. Despite the fact that government officials have good access to social security benefits and pensions, many favor continuing to work because of their comparatively light workloads and good rates of pay compared to private sector workers.
Many laborers and non-government employees were less enthusiastic about the prospect of working for longer. Currently, they have to pay into their pension plans for at least 15 years before they can retire.
Chen Xianlian, a female worker at a motorcycle parts manufacturer in Chongqing municipality is among those who would like to see the retirement age left as it is.
"I have to do lots of tough and repetitive work every day and I feel very tired after my working day," the 41-year-old said. "All my colleagues are discussing the government's possible move to lift the retirement age. None of us wants to work any extra years.
"I could receive a stable pension that is even more than I earn now if I retire at 50 under the current policy."
University graduates also fear that any rise in the retirement age could limit their employment opportunities.
Fan Ming, director of the institute of market economy at Henan University of Economics and Law, said a rise in the retirement age would not necessarily exacerbate any surplus in labor supply.
"There is a lot of pressure on China's pension system," he told China Daily. "Every two taxpayers would have to pay the social security expenses of one retired person by 2035. The current situation is every 3.5 taxpayers pay for one retired person."
Fan said China's retirement age is low compared to many countries and a raise is necessary.
"People should realize that it is their responsibility to extend their retirement age because they are enjoying an increased life expectancy and many people can still work beyond the current statutory retirement age," he said.
Yang Yansui, a labor expert at Tsinghua University, said different approaches should be adopted when targeting different groups of people.
For example, an employee could negotiate with his or her company about whether to retire or continue working after he or she reaches retirement age, she said.
Government officials could have their retirement age lifted across the board while male and female officials could be asked to retire at the same age, Yang suggested.