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Chinese women desperately want to continue working but are forced to retire

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As Beijing strives to balance the needs of an aging workforce and youth unemployment, China’s female professionals are challenging the world’s lowest retirement age.

Court records show that since 2019, Chinese women have sued their employers more than 1,000 times, requiring them to resign at the age of 50, while their female colleagues in managerial positions can stay until the age of 55. In the ten years before 2019, there were fewer than 800 such cases.

China’s labor laws require women in certain industries to retire earlier than women in other industries, but the law is vague about which groups fall under this policy. In the United States, men and women fully retire from the age of 66.

The surge in retirement disputes highlights China’s demographic dilemma: the country’s Aging population Its birth rate is declining, creating an economic time bomb. At the same time, the government is working hard to achieve ambitious economic growth targets because the national pension fund is already at a dangerously low level.

“Our retirement regulations have indeed led to a waste of human capital and pressure on the pension system,” said a Beijing government consultant who asked not to be named. “But the authorities do not want older people to compete with young people for jobs that are still in short supply.”

China established a retirement system in the early 1950s. At that time, Beijing set the mandatory retirement age for most women at 50, women with management positions or special skills at 55, and men at 60 regardless of their position.

Analysts said that this arrangement was very suitable at the time in a country where citizens rarely lived to be over 50 and women had an average of six children.

“We let women, especially ordinary women, retire early so that they can have more time to take care of their families,” said Yuan Xin, a demographer and government consultant in Tianjin.

Since then, despite the relaxation of the family planning policy, the life expectancy of Chinese women has risen to nearly 80 years, but the fertility rate has plummeted.Chinese population Grow at the slowest rate Decades of the 10 years to 2020.

These factors, coupled with the increase in education and income, have prompted more women Focus on one’s own business And build retirement savings.

The lack of funds in China’s pension system will also be eased by workers’ postponement of retirement because Beijing is working hard Support the country’s aging population.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the official think tank, said in a report that the country’s state-backed pension fund is expected to run out of funds as early as 2035. As much as possible,” said Fang Lianquan, one of the authors of the study.

Although China’s labor laws are unclear and there are many boycotts from female professionals who want to work until the age of 55, the early retirement policy has not changed.

China’s retirement system was established in the 1950s, when few people could live to be over 50 years old, and women had an average of six children © AP

In the eastern province of Jiangsu, 51-year-old Wang Yun lost a lawsuit against her employer (the retailer where she is a marketing manager) for letting her retire at the age of 50. The articles of association restrict management positions to directors and above.

“I have been managing staff for nearly ten years, and I have the strength and willingness to keep this job,” Wang said. “Too bad, the court won’t listen to me.”

Another major obstacle to changing China’s retirement policy is the country’s young people.Even if the country’s working-age population drops sharply, many young workers Hard to find a job.

The unemployment rate for adults under the age of 24 in China exceeds 13%, while the national average is about 5%. If older workers postpone their retirement, this job shortage will be further exacerbated.

“The Chinese economy does not allow young people and old people to be fully employed,” said an adviser from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security that formulates retirement policies. “We can only give priority to a group of people.”

Another obstacle to raising the retirement age is that a large number of female adults, led by low-end workers, have worked hard for decades in the factory floor or office cubicle, and they hope to enjoy pension benefits as soon as possible.

In the northeastern city of Fushun, 50-year-old office manager Wang Feng retired this month, despite Chinese law allowing her to work for another five years.

“I have been busy for more than 30 years, and my health has not been very good these years,” Wang said. “I don’t want to work anymore.”

You Jun, deputy minister of human resources and social security, said in February that China would “gradually” extend the retirement age, but did not provide a timetable.

Government advisers said that reforms may begin next year, when the official retirement ages for both men and women will be raised by a few months.

However, this does not help alleviate the concerns of many female professionals. “Maybe my daughter’s generation will be more free to choose when to retire,” said Liu Hui, a 49-year-old marketing assistant in Shanghai. “I might not have that luck.”

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