China pushes gradual delay in retirement age, sparking outcry among young Chinese

A year ago the Chinese government announced that it would “gradually delay the legal retirement age” over five years, and the words are soon to become a reality in the country. The Eastern-Central province of Jiangsu is to pilot the new scheme from 1 March, according to the Chinese media outlet Beijing News on 22 February.    

The new regulation, however, will be implemented “on a voluntary basis”, which means individuals who are of the current legal retirement ages (50 for blue-collar female workers, 55 for white-collar female workers, and 60 for most men) can apply to put off their retirement for a minimum of one year or up to age 65, which is a universal pension age for both male and female, as per the Human Resources and Social Security Department in Jiangsu.

This is China’s first detailed scheme in regards to delaying legal retirement ages, as the government has been seeking to address one of the country’s most pressing issues – a declining birth rate coupled with a rapidly aging population, which could lead to a shortage of labour in the foreseeable future.

Although it is understood employees who opt in the scheme will receive more monthly pension than those who don’t, such an offer is hardly attractive to China’s working class, in particular, those of Millennials and Gen Z crowds, who have already been critical about the new policy.

Some complained that such policies would worsen the competition for employment amongst young job seekers. Others described the scheme as an “exploitation” of young working people, considering China’s toxic work culture with overtime work being the biggest controversy. A postponed retirement means they will have to bear with an intensive workload for longer, which has led to many raising concerns about the health of the working class in the long run.

The pushback is also a combined consequence of China’s birth policies. Growing up through the one-child policy, many workers of the young generations are an only-child. But with the implementation of the three-child policy, they are facing the pressure to have children when they come to their childbearing ages, which could impact their roles within the job market on top of increased costs in parenting. Therefore, the new scheme is believed to further the conflict between workers’ careers and family responsibilities.  


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