Smaller social security burden good for real economy

By Mo Kaiwei
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 10, 2016
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 [File photo of the social security card of China]

Currently, 12 local governments, including Shanghai, Guangdong, Tianjin, Gansu, Jiangxi, and Beijing, have released schedules to cut required contribution rates to social security funds, focusing mainly on occupational injury, unemployment, and birth insurance. Shanghai, Hangzhou and Xiamen, also plan to cut contribution rates to pension and medical insurance, the Beijing Times reported on March 28.

Generally speaking, a smaller social security burden will bring benefits to the real economy. Since China set up its pension insurance system, the burden on enterprises and individuals has increased as contribution rates to pension insurance have gotten higher. According to related data, the contribution rate to social security funds in China has reached 40 percent -- 29.8 percent from businesses and 11 percent from individuals -- which ranks first in the world and is 4.6 times than the rates of other East Asian countries and 3 times the rates of five Northern European countries. In a sluggish economic situation, high contribution rates increase production and operating costs, causing more and more businesses to cut jobs.

Obviously, it's difficult for local governments to cut down contribution rates to social security funds, since China is currently facing significant pressure from a growing elderly population and large pension expenses. But the bold move will help to demonstrate local governments' steadfast determination to reduce operating stress and provide support to the real economy.

Firstly, cutting down contribution rates to social security funds reduces the operating costs of enterprises, which benefits middle, small, and micro-sized businesses. According to a calculation by the Hangzhou Municipal Human Resource and Social Security Bureau, after their cuts, some 1 billion yuan (US$153.6 million) worth of medical insurance payments will be saved in downtown Hangzhou.

Secondly, in the currently sluggish economic situation, cutting down contribution rates to social security funds will optimize the resilience of businesses, helping them step out of difficulties.

Thirdly, cutting down contribution rates to social security funds would favor accumulation and increase effective investments, so as to expand production scale. It would help to leave businesses more capital to speed up transformations and upgrades optimize Chinese industrial structure and enhance economic stability.

However, in the current situation, the extent of local governments' cuts to contribution rates could remain at a low level. The cut-downs so far announced mainly relate to occupational injury, birth, and unemployment insurance, but not on pension and medical insurance. Since these three kinds of insurance do not account for a large part of overall social security funds, the cut-downs cannot relieve much of the burden on businesses. And the actual cut-downs are also limited, for instance, Tianjin lowered the employer's contribution rate to unemployment from 2 percent to 1 percent and the contribution rate to birth insurance from 0.8 percent to 0.5 percent. In Shanghai, the required contribution rate to pension insurance for businesses was dropped by 1 percent to 20 percent; required contribution rate towards medical insurance for businesses was also cut by 1 percent to 10 percent. This range of the cutting is too small to cause significant effects.

Therefore, local governments are expected to maximize cuts to contribution rates within the scope of guaranteeing the payment safety of the social security funds. By doing this, the Chinese real economy could have more capital to speed up development.

In addition, a dynamic social security payment mechanism should be set up to change the contribution rates in accordance with economic reality.

The writer is a researcher at China Academy of Regional Finance.

The article was written in Chinese and translated by Lin Liyao.

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

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