The sustainability of China’s Urban Employees’ Pension Programme: A case of getting old before getting rich

Mel Cousins

Volume 74 (2021), Issue 1

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This article examines the sustainability of China’s Urban Employees’ Pension Programme – the main component in China’s overall old-age support system. It looks at the sustainability of the programme generally and, in particular, at case studies of two areas (Tianjin municipality and Guangxi province) to highlight both the extent of regional variations and the common challenges facing Chinese policy-makers. It discusses a number of key issues that should assist policy-makers to address the challenge of population ageing. It concludes that the challenge facing China is no more severe than that already faced by other countries in Europe and Asia. Moreover, the ageing of the population is not uniform across the regions of China. Consequently, those areas where the demographic shift is more advanced will provide some opportunity for policy experimentation. Given the experience to date of slow progress on various aspects of pension policy reform, the article suggests that it seems unlikely that paradigmatic change will be significant. Nonetheless, the study suggests a range of parametric policy measures that should be considered by China. The challenge facing China’s policy-makers is to ensure that China gets old and rich at the same time.

Old-age pensions
Population ageing
old-age benefit
pension scheme
social security financing
population ageing