China is making a new push to raise one of the world’s lowest retirement ages as it tries to cope with a rapidly graying population, a move that’s already fueling public discontent and will test the Communist Party’s ability to implement reforms.
The ruling party alluded to the change earlier this month when it released an outline of its five-year economic plan, which included a recommendation to “implement postponing the retirement age.” Specific measures in the plan are due to be unveiled in March.
China’s retirement age has remained unchanged for more than four decades at 60 for men and 55 for female white-collar workers, even as life expectancy has risen. In places like Japan and Taiwan, most men and women can retire and start drawing a pension at 65. The global average was 62.7 years for men and 61.3 years for women, according to an analysis of 70 countries by insurer Allianz SE.
The Communist Party’s statement produced a fierce backlash domestically, with tens of thousands of angry comments posted on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter. Top among the complaints were from those closest to retiring, expressing anger over the prospect of delayed access to their pensions. Younger people argued that an increase in older workers would reduce their employment opportunities.