Retirement Age for Women Asked to Be Raised

Changing the female retirement age to 60 would help promote gender equality and the advancement of women, a prominent Shanghai delegate said Wednesday.

Li Kuinan, a Shanghai deputy to the Ninth National People’s Congress (NPC), proposed the change to the ongoing Fourth Session of the Ninth NPC. Women must now retire at 50 or 55, depending on their employers.

The Labor Law stipulates that retired laborers have the right to enjoy retirement benefits without specifying the age of their retirement. The Ministry of Personnel governs the retirement ages. Under current rules, men must retire at the age of 60 and women at 50 or 55.

Women who work for corporations retire at 50, while those who serve in public agencies and institutions quit at 55.

These policies date back to the 1950s when the service industry lagged behind the nation’s development of agriculture and industry, which “relies more on strength than intelligence,” Li said.

Yet these policies are now preventing women attaining equal rights and pay, Li said. “Things have changed in the past 50 years, and the policies should adopt the current changes,” she said.

The rapid development of the service industry has created more job opportunities for women. In addition, the gender difference concerning work requirements is much less significant than before, Li said.

Dramatically longer life expectancies for women - up from 60 years in the 1970s to 80.5 in 1999 - have enabled them to work longer, said Wu Lili, another Shanghai NPC deputy who joined Li’s proposal with 32 other deputies.

“Women have to leave their jobs at an earlier age than men even when they are still quite capable of handling their work,” Li said. “It is not fair. Women should have the right to judge for themselves their personal capability, the need of their employers and their own willingness to continue work.”

The 45-year-old deputy, a China Eastern Airlines employee, said she is willing to work until 60 if she remains healthy.

Women lose 368 yuan (US$44) per month in retirement benefits if their careers are shorter than men, Li estimated.

Current practice also deprives some middle-aged women of promotions, Li added. The fact that women who have acquired a position above division chief can prolong their service term to 60 is “not enough,” Li complained.

“All women should have the chance to work as long as men do if they wish to,” she said.

(China Daily 03/08/2001)

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