Tuesday, April 28, 2009

China: Study Points Pension Reform to Deal with Coming Age Wave

A report from the Center for Strategic & International Studies warns that the aging of China’s population could usher in a new era of slower economic growth and mounting social stress as tens of millions of Chinese arrive at old age over the next few decades without pensions and with inadequate family support. The authors of "China’s Long March to Retirement Reform: The Graying of the Middle Kingdom Revisited" evaluate recent government efforts to prepare for the challenge and outlines an ambitious new reform plan and argue that, despite the current economic situation, delay in addressing address the long-term aging challenge is not an option.

Among other things, Richard Jackson, Keisuke Nakashima, and Neil Howe present a plan that provides for a universal poverty backstop that would protect all Chinese against an uncertain old age, and that would also create a national and fully portable system of funded retirement accounts. This would allow China to care for a much larger number of older people without overburdening its smaller working generation and help China to maintain rates of savings, investment, and living standard growth as its population ages. With respect to retirement age:
The minimum retirement age would initially be set at 60 for men and 55 for women, just as it is in the current basic pension system. These low retirement ages are necessary because today’s older workers often do not have the skills to compete in China’s rapidly modernizing economy. But as these workers are replaced by younger and higher-skilled cohorts and as China’s population ages, longer work lives will not only become feasible, but essential. Our plan therefore provides for gradually raising the minimum retirement age for both sexes to age 65 by 2030, after which it would be indexed to longevity.
Sources: Center for Strategic & International Studies Summary (April 22, 2009); Reuters "Age wave to come crashing soon over China's economy" (April 27, 2009)

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