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Providing Greater Old-Age Security in China

  • Richard Herd
  • Hu-Wei Hu
  • Vincent Koen

China’s population is set to age fast, owing to low fertility and rising life expectancy. With ongoing migration of the younger cohorts to urban areas the increase in the old-age dependency ratio will be even more pronounced in rural than in urban areas. Very different pension arrangements exist across the country, with diverse and segmented systems in urban areas, belated retirement and low replacement ratios in rural areas, and special rules governing public sector pensions. Labour mobility is impeded by some of features of the current pension system, not least limited benefit portability. Various reforms have been initiated or proposed over the past decade. Some add to the existing fragmentation, while others, notably those providing for greater geographical pooling, have only partly been implemented. Also, under current rules, effective replacement rates are fairly low and projected to decline further, both for rural and urban residents, which may be difficult to sustain with the elderly living less and less with their descendants. Furthermore, as the countryside ages, much of the additional burden will be shouldered by local governments with insufficient resources. These challenges can be addressed by gradually consolidating the various regimes, raising retirement ages and shifting more of the cost of rural pensions to the central government. Even if different schemes for different categories of workers were to persist, each should be unified over time, first provincially and then nationally, phasing out the urban-rural distinction. Offrir davantage de sécurité aux personnes âgées en Chine La population de la Chine devrait vieillir rapidement, en raison d’une faible fécondité et de l’allongement de l’espérance de vie. Dans un contexte de migration des cohortes plus jeunes vers les agglomérations, la hausse du taux de dépendance économique des personnes âgées sera encore plus soutenue en milieu rural que dans les zones urbaines. Des mécanismes de retraite très variés co-existent: systèmes divers et segmentés en ville, retraite tardive et faibles taux de remplacement dans les campagnes, et règles spécifiques régissant les retraites du secteur public. La mobilité de la main d’oeuvre est freinée par certains aspects du système de retraite actuel, notamment une portabilité restreinte des prestations. Des réformes ont été initiées ou proposées au cours de la décennie écoulée. Certaines accentuent la fragmentation existante, alors que d’autres, en particulier celles visant à intensifier le regroupement géographique, n’ont été que partiellement mises en oeuvre. De plus, d’après les règles en vigueur, les taux de remplacement effectifs sont assez bas et devraient poursuivre leur repli, pour les ruraux comme pour les citadins, ce qui pourrait entraîner une situation difficilement tenable puisque les plus âgés vivent de moins en moins souvent avec leurs descendants. De surcroît, en raison du vieillissement de la population rurale, une grande partie du surcoût devra être supporté par des collectivités locales dotées de ressources insuffisantes. Il est possible de remédier à ces difficultés en fusionnant progressivement les différents régimes, en relevant l’âge de la retraite et en reportant une plus grande fraction du coût des retraites en milieu rural sur le gouvernement central. Même si différents régimes devaient subsister pour différentes catégories de travailleurs, il faudra les fusionner au fil du temps, tout d’abord à l’échelon provincial, puis sur le plan national, en supprimant peu à peu la distinction entre les villes et les campagnes.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 750.

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Date of creation: 23 Feb 2010
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Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:750-en
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