Don't rush changes on women's retirement

By Zhai Qi
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, March 4, 2011
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Just before the "two sessions" of China's parliament, the issue of raising the retirement age for women shot to the top of the agenda, after a document was released by the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee.

The document said that the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is to "look carefully into the issue of women's retirement age and strengthen the training of women by taking the interests of different groups into account". Many interpreted this as meaning the central government was trying to tackle the problem of sexual inequality in China.

It would be wonderful if the NPC had proposed women should be given the right to decide if they will retire earlier than the official retirement age, which would illustrate the democratic side of China. But although this plan looks as beautiful as Helen of Troy, Chinese people will find it hard to sing its praises.

It is well known to all in China that once the government formulates a new policy, companies and local administrations will immediately look for ways to exploit it or get around it. The NPC document lacks detail and fails to define clear legal guidelines, so it will be easy for power holders to exploit any new regulation for their own advantage. A female high official in a local government might be able to hang on to her position for another five years. One the other hand, women working in poor or unsafe conditions may find it harder to retire.

The women's autonomous right to retire provided by the government is also vague and general, and lacks a firm legal basis. It is rather like the situation with land rights. Removals and demolitions are supposed to be based on people's will, and give people the right to decide whether to move or not. But many projects don't respect the regulations and, as a consequence, not only homes, but lives are destroyed. As the leader of the world's second largest economy, the Chinese government has a responsibility to take the time to draw up a well-rounded policy and not rush in with an ill-thought-out plan.

The author is a China researcher for foreign media in Beijing.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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