Transcript -- 文字实录
1978年国务院规定中国男职工法定退休年龄为60岁，女职工为50岁，女干部为55岁。6月5日，人力资源和社会保障部提出未来会逐步将退休年龄推迟5年。这个消息引起了广泛的讨论。 事实上，这并不是人社部第一次提出这个方案。但是延迟中国人的退休年龄究竟好不好呢？政府推动这个方案有什么更深层的社会原因呢？现行的养老保险制度又存在着哪些问题？在讨论这些问题之前, 让我们先听听大家是怎么说的。
In 1978, the State Council regulated that Chinese male employees should retire at the age of 60, female employees at 50 and female officials at 55. On June 5, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said it is going to gradually push back the retirement age by 5 years. The announcement drew wide discussion. In fact, this wasn't the first time the ministry proposed the move. But is it a good idea for Chinese workers to retire at a later age? In what social context is the government's push rooted? And what are some of the more fundamental problems existing in China's current pension system? Before we get into these questions, let's hear what people have to say first.
Reporter: At what age did you retire?
Respondent: I was 55 years old.
Respondent: I retired early. That means I didn't reach the official retirement age but was no longer able to work for personal reasons.
Reporter: What is your ideal age for retirement?
Respondent: Fifty-something would be good.
Respondent: The earlier the better. But I think the age of 55 that's currently required is acceptable.
Respondent: Sixty to 65.
Reporter：If we delay the retirement age by five years, what impact do you think it will have on society?
Respondent: I think there are pros and cons. The positive side is that middle-aged and elderly professionals can continue to make contributions to society. The negative side is that young people may have difficulty finding jobs.
Respondent: I think that would be good. Many 60-year-olds are still physically strong.
Respondent: For people like civil servants, who have comfortable jobs or are in power, it is the later the better.
Respondent: In an aging society, the number of elderly people is growing. If we push back retirement by another five years, young people will have fewer and fewer opportunities.
Respondent: If our healthcare and children's education can be better guaranteed, I think I will still be able to work for five more years. But if the social security is inadequate, I will find it quite hard to work another five years. It depends on how the society can reduce the pressure that's on us.
The basic idea for a pension system is citizens pay social security taxes to fund current pensioners. When a person retires, he or she will be funded by the younger generation of tax payers. According to China's 2010 Social Security Law, China's basic pension system divides people into four categories: urban employees, State employees, rural residents, and urban residents, which includes self-employed, part-time employed and unemployed residents.
China's basic pension system consists of social pooling and each citizen's individual account. Each month, urban employees pay 8 percent of their wages as social security taxes to their individual accounts. Employers pay an amount equal to 20 percent of each employee's wages to the social pool, which is managed by local governments. Individual accounts are in fact, virtual, because employees will not be able to cash out their pension until they retire, and have contributed to their individual accounts for at least 15 years.
Their pension will come from two sources: first, the money allotted to them from the big, social pool. and, second, the money from their individual accounts. State employees, however, do not pay monthly social security taxes from their work wages by themselves. The State revenue pays for them. They receive pension directly from the State after they retire. Rural residents and urban residents can participate in the basic pension system by contributing social security taxes to their individual accounts for at least 15 years .Their pension will come from their individual accounts as well as a base pension provided by the State. In addition to the basic pension system, which is compulsory, there are also enterprise annuity and commercial pension insurance. They are optional for companies and individuals to choose.
According to the 2011 China Pension Report published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in almost all developed countries in Europe, employees retire at the age of 61 or above. In the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Sweden, employees retire at 65, and in Iceland and Norway 67. Normally, residents of developed countries contribute to their individual pension accounts for 41 years, whereas China requires only 15 years.
Does the discussion over retirement age have anything to do with the structure of China's pension system? We called Zheng Bingwen from our studio. He is the lead author of the 2011 China Pension Report.
Feng Xin: Professor Zheng, I found online that most netizens seem to object to the idea of delaying retirement, whereas most experts seem to support the idea. What do you think of that disagreement?
Zheng Bingwen: I think it's natural. It's not easy to change the retirement age in other countries either. We can find a pattern in the disagreement on raising the retirement age. What's the pattern? If a country's retirement system and social welfare are fragmented, trying to raise the retirement age becomes a much more difficult process. If its systems are not fragmented, it's easy to do.
Feng Xin: What do you mean by "fragmented systems"?
Zheng Bingwen: For example, many Western European countries have highly fragmented systems. One social group has one system. Some countries have four or five systems. Under each system, there are sub-levels. They are very fragmented. France is a typical example. However, the United States and Northern Europe easily raised their retirement ages after the war, especially the United States. Different groups live within the same system, and therefore they feel equal. There is no comparison. However, countries with fragmented systems are different. In France, there are so many fragmented policies. If you want to raise the retirement age of one group, people will compare it to that of another group. Every group feels that it loses in certain ways. In China, we encounter a lot of opposing voices on rising retirement age. The voices have been getting more and more intense. The discussion has become wider and wider. I personally think it's largely related to our double- or multi-track systems as well as fragmented policies. Therefore, I think from a social-fairness point of view, the opposing voices, especially the rational ones, indicate the inequality in our system. The fragmented policies seriously hinder the possibility to further reform our pension system.
Feng Xin: Thank you very much.
Apart from social fairness, there are more issues to be considered. We talked to Yang Yansui, a leading expert in China's pension system.
冯欣：杨教授，现在大家对“是否延迟退休年龄” 这个问题讨论比较热烈, 您觉得主要争议在哪呢？
Feng Xin: Professor Yang, there's wide discussion on whether we should push back the retirement age. What do you think to be the major controversies?
Yang Yansui: Retirement age is determined by the dependency ratio between the number of elderly people and the workforce. Let's say five workers support one old person. We assume they are all employed and able to pay taxes. For every 100 yuan each worker makes,10 yuan is taken out as pension tax. Five workers contribute 50 yuan to one elderly person. People can normally afford that tax. But what if four workers now have to support one elderly person?
Feng Xin: The burden gets heavier.
If four support one, how much do we have to tax young people? Let's say 15%. Then each worker's dispensable income is 85 yuan. If the worker has to raise a child, buy a house, or even pursue further education, he or she would not be able to afford the tax. What if we decrease the pension? Let's make it 40 yuan. Can the elderly person still be fed? No.
Feng Xin: Sorry to interrupt,you just mentioned that when five support one, the country might be able to cope with it. But when it comes to four to one, it might just not be able to. What's our situation now?
Yang Yansui: It's called "marginal aged-dependency ratio", meaning we can't go lower. In 2010, nine workers supported one elderly person in China. But by 2020,five have to support one.
Feng Xin: That fast?
Yang Yansui: Yes. You know, because of the family planning policy over the past 30 years, we had nearly 500 million fewer people, but people live longer than before. The problem will break out in the next decade. But I want to emphasize that I was talking about statistics. We assumed people between 15 and 64 are all employed and able to pay income tax and social security taxes. But is that really the case? Can everyone from 15 to 64 be fully employed? Do they all have good income?
Feng Xin: Many 15-year-olds are still in school.
Yang Yansui: You are right. So, we are now studying what's called the "actual dependency ratio". The problem is really serious. Although we can't release our findings yet, we can assume it's definitely not nine to one. In some places, it's already three to one, or even two to one. Statistically, it will be five to one in 2020. If China doesn't take itself to full employment, increase low-income people's earnings so that they can not only feed themselves but also elderly people, or push pack the retirement age. By 2020, we will become a seriously aged country. It will lead to a series of social problems and directly threaten our goal of having a prosperous society in 2020.
Feng Xin: On the surface, people are discussing whether we should delay our retirement age, but what has caused this controversy? In other words, what deeper problems does the controversy imply?
Yang Yansui: I checked the web, and I think there are two main issues. First, people wonder if delaying the retirement age means it'll be harder for young people to be employed. Many see elderly people leaving the job market and young people entering the market as one question, as if there were a certain number of chairs in the job market. If a seat is taken, there would be one less available for a young person. When elderly people leave, young people would have seats immediately.
Feng Xin: Like each person has his own place?
Yang Yansui: Yes. The public usually sees it this way, but in fact, the job market doesn't work like that. How many seats there are available in the job market depends on the structure of industries. Our current industries include primary industry, like mining, secondary industry, like manufacturing, and tertiary industry, like the service industry. They are interrelated. If the first and second industries still take up a big proportion – they can indeed easily be replaced by technology – and if we don't restructure the industries, not only elderly people but also young graduates still won't find jobs, even if we make all 40-year-olds retire. Jobs are mainly created by the tertiary industry. As long as we improve the service industry, young people will have jobs. This is not determined by the parameter of retirement. I think this is a misunderstanding.
Secondly, as many may have known, there are problems with our individual accounts becoming empty. As the society is aging, the government's burden is getting heavier. The reform of public sectors is an issue, because they are growing bigger and bigger but don't pay taxes. They rely on the State revenue. There are fewer taxpayers, and our workforce will also decrease next year. Is the government's financial burden getting too heavy? People are thinking these questions. Does the government owe people their pension? Does it want to avoid solving the problem of empty individual accounts? Does the government attempt to get away with diverting young people's money to (supporting current pensioners) by delaying people's retirement age? I see this as a major concern.
Feng Xin: What do you think?
Yang Yansui: As I just said it, to solve the problem of the dependency ratio, people need to be prepared with two things. First, pushing back the retirement age - we need to make it flexible. Let those who are prepared start retiring first, leading others to follow. I believe at least in the next few years this will not threaten the elderly, unemployed people. It won't. The other thing to do is restructure the pension system. China absolutely needs to do that. In fact, what China has implemented – the combination of the social pool and individual accounts – is very good. But when policy was implemented in 1998, tens of millions of State employees were laid off to boost efficiency. Their average age was only 47, but they had to retire. Who was to provide their pension? So the government diverted young people's money. When people pay 8% of their wages go to their individual accounts, the money was diverted to supporting the elderly people or those who retire early. They were either called "downsized" or "re-employed" staff, and many of them retired early. These people were not included in the State budget, so the government used young people's money. The money was indeed diverted. This problem has to be solved. It cannot be ignored, because we are going to delay the retirement age.
Feng Xin: Should we delay the retirement age, what's your personal opinion? Do you support it or object to it?
Yang Yansui: I support it. In terms of China's retirement age, the country is carrying out a rigid, compulsory and clear-cut policy. The law specifies an age,and everyone has to retire on that day. There are no options. Also, the retirement age is the same as the age to receive pension. Retirement means I leave the job market and no longer go out to work. But receiving pension means I have to start receiving money from the State. A wise public policy is to give people two to three choices. If people think they make their own decisions, rather than being forced by the government, they would be happy to carry out their choices. they would be happy to carry out their choices. In fact, these are two completely different things.
But I have to emphasize that many people are concerned with how State employees might further benefit from this how State employees might further benefit from this. In fact, it will be impossible for State employees to choose when they want to retire. Impossible. They have to follow civil servants law completely. Individuals will not be able to choose, nor will their departments. They have to follow the law. It will mainly be employees at public institutions and enterprises (that can choose). But once it is carried out, it's not a slogan. The government has to pass relevant laws to define retirement age and the age to receive pension. It has to specify under what conditions employees can choose retirement age and how employers should respond. What procedures to follow and make transparent, and how to record them – these things all have to be strictly specified in the law. It cannot be turned into a few people's decision. Absolutely not.
Feng Xin: Perhaps there are more questions for individuals like you and me to consider. For example, how much money can we receive after we retire? Does China have enough money to fund its aging population? At what age should we start planning our retirement? Please be sure to join us in our next episode.
In 1978, the State Council regulated that Chinese male employees should retire at the age of 60, female employees at 50 and female officials at 55. On June 5, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said it is going to gradually push back the retirement age to 65 years old. In fact, this wasn’t the first time the ministry proposed the move. But is it a good idea to allow workers in China to retire at a later age? In what social context is the government’s push rooted? And what are some of the more fundamental problems existing in China’s current pension system?