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Raise in Mandatory Retirement Age Not An Option
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China has ruled out raising the mandatory retirement age in order to cope with huge deficit in the national pension fund, a top official said.

Liu Yongfu, vice-minister of Labor and Social Security said in an online talk on Wednesday, that current conditions were not conducive to raising the retirement age.

He said the retirement age was low compared to some other countries, but that China had an abundant labor force.

The current policy should encapsulate all factors, and will continue to be implemented, Liu said.

The retirement age at present is 60 for men and 55 for women or 50, in exceptional cases.

It was earlier reported that officials with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security were studying the feasibility of raising the retirement age before submitting proposals to higher authorities.

Liu's remarks have dispelled concerns in certain sectors that raising the retirement age would worsen an already bleak unemployment situation. In a recent poll, 77 percent of 2,743 people surveyed opposed the proposal.

The biggest problem confronting the ministry is "money," Liu said.

The pension system was implemented in the 1990s. Before that, China was a planning economy, with a policy of low unemployment and low salaries with no pension system or provident fund.

Today, 43 million retired people are on the system's pay role. A number of them have not contributed to the fund, with around 8 million having not contributed as much as they should because they retired prior to the mandatory age.

The nation's social security fund was 800 billion yuan (US$102 billion) in debt at the end of last year.

The good news, however, is that collection methods have improved. Last year the fund received 509.3 billion yuan (US$63.7 billion) and paid out 404 billion yuan (US$50.5 billion).

The ministry will continue to strengthen collection methods ensuring an adequate lifestyle for retirees, Liu said.

The government is now studying new investment management methods to ensure that the fund's security and value increase.

(China Daily December 22, 2006)

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