Tools: Save | Print | " target="_blank" class="style1">E-mail | Most Read
Pension Coverage Poses Challenge for Farmers
Adjust font size:

Trial pension schemes were launched in the 1980s in the context of a huge rural population just getting by on little money.

The rural population was ageing quickly because of family planning programmes and the large numbers of young people making a break for urban areas in search of work.

Provision for the twilight years as guaranteed by land was becoming increasingly unreliable because the proportion of farmers' income reaped from the land was relatively small. Wages from migrant workers accounted for the lion's share of a typical family's earnings.

Rural families became less able to provide for the elderly because fewer youngsters were around to care for them. In the past men could guarantee a sort of pension by passing on family assets to younger generations.

By the end of 2005, trial programmes offering endowment insurance to the elderly in rural regions had already registered substantial progress. The pensions umbrella, which pooled more than 30 billion yuan (US$3.7 billion), covered 54 million farmers in 1,800 counties nationwide, and more than 2 million former farmers had begun to draw money from the scheme.

Generally speaking, farmers that want to join the endowment insurance scheme must first hand over a sum of money. This constitutes the bulk of the pension fund.

On this basis, the townships and villages where they live give them subsidies. The local governments also help by offering policy and financial support to farmers.

Low-level governments in Beijing's suburbs and those in the south of Jiangsu Province in east China have begun to contribute financially to the endowment insurance scheme.

All of the money comes from individual bank accounts with contributions from farmers, the township or village and the local government.

The more cash one puts into the scheme, the more one can draw when one is old enough to be eligible for the pension.

In Yantai, east China's Shandong Province, 98 percent of farmers are covered by the project.

When the pension programme began each farmer put in just 30 yuan (US$3.70) a year, but now hands over a few hundred yuan annually. The total endowment insurance fund in the area has reached 1.6 billion yuan (US$197 million).

More than 100,000 old farmers have already begun to draw money from the pool, each receiving 80 yuan (US$10) every month. As staple foods are guaranteed by the land, this small sum is enough to support their needs.

In Beijing, the municipal government has decided to earmark 50 million yuan (US$6.2 million) each year to finance the pension scheme.

But these localities are all in economically developed areas.

Huashan County of east China's Anhui Province offers a case study for how relatively backward areas are trying to find ways to support rural endowment insurance projects.

The county government has decided to top up farmers' pensions by 2 per cent.

It pays, in the eyes of farmers. They are happy to see the money they pay into their bank accounts is fattened by interest and a further 2 per cent from the government.

In Hutubi County in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, farmers can get mortgage loans from banks with receipts showing they have put money into a pension fund.

Some critics doubt the feasibility of establishing rural endowment insurance schemes.

They argue farmers are not eligible to enjoy pensions before they give up farming.

This argument is unfounded because income from the land makes up a tiny portion of total earnings.

In addition, farmers only have the right to use land it is owned by the State. They cannot sell the land to provide for their old age.

The conditions are right for the introduction of endowment insurance schemes in rural areas now that agriculture makes up less than 15 per cent of GDP. It was at this stage of development that European countries started providing pensions for farmers. Industry has begun to offer substantial support for farming.

Implementation is also a pressing task as an old-age insurance programme would not be up and running for 20 or 30 years from the time it is first set up.

China's elderly population crisis will peak in two or three decades, so we must do something about it now.

Pension schemes should be incorporated into the nation's general plans for economic and social development.

The government is trying to introduce a complete social security system, but how will this be possible when large numbers of farmers remain out of reach?

Governments at various levels should increase investment in endowment insurance schemes in rural areas. Farmers should be allowed to claim a share of the substantial increase in the country's revenue.

In the immediate future, the focus should be on farmers employed in sectors other than agriculture and those in areas that are quickly becoming urbanized.

The 40 million or so farmers that have no land to till because it has been requisitioned in the course of urbanization should be given pensions.

Farmers-turned-workers in urban areas should also be included in the endowment insurance plans.

(China Daily February 15, 2006)

Tools: Save | Print | " target="_blank" class="style1">E-mail | Most Read

Related Stories
Farmers' Pension System Drafted
Chinese Farmers Begin to Receive Pensions
Millions of Farmers Receive Pensions
Shanghai Offers Social Security Services for Farmers
SiteMap | About Us | RSS | Newsletter | Feedback

Copyright © All Rights Reserved E-mail: Tel: 86-10-88828000 京ICP证 040089号