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Late Retirement vs. Current Employment
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In 2000, the pension deficit stood at 36 billion yuan (US$4.5 billion), but by the end of last year, it had soared to 800 billion yuan (US$100 billion). Experts warn that this is caused by the improper early retirement and recommend stopping people living on their pensions ahead of time.

Guo Yue, deputy director of the Research Center under the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, said that prolonging the retiring age could efficiently alleviate the deficit. In 2050, the average life of Chinese people will reach 80 years old and this is thus a necessary and viable step.

Early in 2000, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security's Social Insurance Research Center also proposed a plan to raise the retirement age. It said that China should reduce the special professions in which workers retire five years ahead of time. Meanwhile, the government should bridge the gap in retiring age between female workers and officials setting 55 as the standard before raising it to 65.

Can this method really solve the problem? Only about 19.1 percent of voters trust it, but 77.0 percent disapprove, according to a survey jointly conducted by the Social Investigation Center of China Youth Daily and the News Center of Sina.com, covering 2743 people.

"It's fine, I think," said Hu Yujun in Beijing. "There are many people who want to work after retirement. Many of my friends ask me for help to find a job." Although she is 73 years old this year, Hu is still a project supervisor of a real estate company after a successful career as a senior engineer.

In her view, the 50s and 60s are a golden age for many professionals full of experience and energy. It is a waste of resources for them to be pushed into retirement. However, she expressed the view that prolonging the retiring age is not suitable for physical labors.

However, Xiang Huaicheng, chairman of the National Council for Social Security Fund did not agree with this view.

He said this method cannot be used in China due to its huge population of young people. Many new jobs or positions come available due to retirement. If senior citizens still occupy current positions, what can young people do?

Statistics from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security shows that in coming years the average annual work force will rise to 24 million people, with only 11 million jobs provided each year.

Recent graduates are already feeling the strain. At a recent job fair held in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, 260 enterprises offered positions there as opposed to a staggering 300,000 students participating in the fierce competition.

In the short term, early retirement may provide employment for young people, but it poses too much pressure on the social security system and economic development.

According to the survey, only 15.8 percent of the people surveyed agree that prolonging the retiring age will resolve the pension deficit while 75.8 percent believe it will reduce the job opportunities which belong to young people. 60.3 percent think the employment problem is the most urgent.

According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, the pension deficit is a result of early retirement. This estimate was provided: if one person retires five years earlier with a pension of 450 yuan (US$56.2) per month, the government will on average spend 27,000 yuan (US$3375) more than usual. Considering 7000 yuan (US$875) of the basic pension fund to be paid during these years, the excess amount reaches 34,000 yuan (US$4250). If 1 million people are in the same situation, the Chinese government will fork out 34 billion yuan (US$4.25 billion).

However, only 35.8 percent of the people surveyed accept the explanation from the ministry. 84.2 percent complain that corruption and lack of efficient supervision are to blame.

(China.org.cn by Wang Ke, December 5, 2006)

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