China / Society

Controversy over Chinese grassroot officials' early retirement

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-04-10 01:37

Controversy over Chinese grassroot officials' early retirement

Senior citizens chat at a retirement home in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - To cope with increasing pressure from a graying population, the Chinese government is setting a timetable for postponing the retirement age, while many local civil servants are experimenting with a different path.

China has 210 million people aged 60 or above, accounting for 15.5 percent of the population. It is estimated that by 2020, this section of society will make up 19.3 percent of the population, and 38.6 percent in 2050.

This will weigh heavy on government endowment insurance expenditure, as individual pensions have increased from 700 yuan ($110.36) 10 years ago to more than 2,000 yuan currently.

At the end of 2015, about 850 million Chinese had pension plans, but prospects are bleak as revenue has grown slower than expenses to the extent that there are are financial deficits in some provinces.

Yin Weimin, human resources and social security minister, in February announced China was raising the retirement age to offset some of these pressures.

Current retirement age is 60 for men, 55 for female white-collar workers and 50 for female blue-collar employees.


In recent years, central authorities have employed various approaches to streamlining government organs, cutting human costs and boosting efficiency.

One way is to giving functionaries the liberty to retire early, with a full pension plus some monetary compensation.

For example, nearly 100 officials in one county in Hunan Province, central China, have applied for early retirement. Last year the officials aged over 50 or who had worked for the county for more than 20 years were invited to retire or transfer to non-leadership positions. They will receive their full pension plus an annual allowance of 20,000 to 30,000 yuan, more money than they'd make in their current positions.

Such phenomenon is also seen in different provinces of the country.

A human resources official in Hunan said early retirement is part of the smooth institutional reform, opening up promotion opportunities to promising young workers.

The director of a local transportation bureau told Xinhua that he has felt under tremendous pressure for the past eight years. "I am exhausted due to heavy responsibility and lightweight benefits. I hope for an early return to family life," he said.

Other officials said after decades of work, they've done all they set out to do, so it is a perfect time to step aside given the package on offer.

Some have complained that they had to retire because they were simply too busy and had no spare time for training, so failed to keep up with the changing situation.


Officials often become less productive once they are over the age limit for promotion and the prospect of leading posts can motivate young officials to make progress, said Yang Yansui, professor with Tsinghua University school of public policy and management.

Early retirement is understandable as long as it meets legal requirements, but strict supervision is needed to ensure retirees do not engage in rent-seeking by exploiting old connections, said Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist with Renmin University of China.

Despite some expert enthusiasm, others are skeptical.

"Public servants are not included in social security programs, so they haven't contributed a penny to the capital pool, yet they can retire early with more pension while ordinary workers toil on for years. What a privilege!" said a user nicknamed "Ironman" on Sina Weibo.

Many others expressed similar concerns. "It's just unfair. If civil servants are incompetent, why not just dismiss them like in private enterprises?" said "Shanyong."

"Postponing retirement will limit employment opportunities for the younger generation, so a flexible early retirement might work," said Deng Dasong, a social security professor at Wuhan University, adding 30 percent of job vacancies are a result of retirement.

Retirees can still play a constructive role in society. "They are very experienced in social affairs, and can be organized to provide advice to the government and promote social welfare undertakings," said "Lionel" on Sina Weibo.

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