Lessons from China on different approaches to pension coverage extension

Litao Zhao
Xiaobin He

Volume 74 (2021), Issue 1

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Achieving universal pension coverage is both an aspiration and a challenge for many developing economies. Traditional contributory schemes are less effective in extending pension coverage to workers who are not in the formal sectors of the economy. As an alternative, non-contributory schemes have gained popularity in recent years. China’s pension reforms mirror this global trend. The introduction of a contribution-based pension scheme for urban employees (Employees’ Pension) was followed by a scheme for rural and urban residents (Residents’ Pension), which is partly government financed and partly contributory, with multiple options for premium payment. This study uses nationally representative survey data collected in 2016 to compare the inclusiveness of the two schemes. It finds that access to the Residents’ Pension scheme is more equal than the Employees’ Pension. Lower status workers in terms of education, employment, income and hukou-migration are more likely to participate in the Residents’ Pension as opposed to the Employees’ Pension, compared with higher status workers. The Chinese experience suggests that a workable solution for pension extension in low- and middle-income countries is to have a scheme that is flexible, affordable and responsive to the diverse needs of the population.

Old-age pensions
Extension of coverage
old-age benefit
social security schemes
pension schemes