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Elderly Chinese migrant workers delay retirement


10-26-2016 05:07 BJT

For the first three quarters of this year, the number of basic elderly insurance recipients in China came to more than 870 million people. The number of social security card holders stood at more than 930 million. For the basic elderly insurance, it requires employers to contribute. That is affecting one group in particular: migrant workers.

The National Bureau of Statistics says there are around 280 million migrant workers in this country, but less than a quarter of them have elderly insurance for enterprise employees. This is forcing them to postpone retirement.

Xiao Yeqing is 52 years old. Though she is past the legal retirement age, she still works in a garment factory in the suburb of Shenzhen. There were more than 49 million elder migrant workers over the age of 50 nationwide as of late last year. And the number is expected to reach 50 million this year.

“I feel I’m old now. Many factories I have worked in have closed. Nothing is there. When I first arrived here, it was full of grass. Now, look at it; skyscrapers are everywhere,” Xiao said.

In 1994, Yeqing moved from her hometown to Shenzhen. Over these years, her salary has risen from 200 RMB per month to 3,000 RMB per month. This is one of the big reasons she chooses to stay. But now, Yeqing and her colleagues are worrying about some other problems.

In Shenzhen, the industrial structure has changed enormously. The development of technology is rapid. And with housing prices surging last year, owners of more and more factories chose to move out of the city. Elder migrant workers like Xiao feel insecure.

“There were more than 400 people in our factory. Now there are only about 30. All of them are at the age as me,” Xiao said.

Facing this reality, Xiao still stays in the big city. She has a son and a daughter. Both of them work in Shenzhen. But she is not close with them.

“When I left my hometown, my daughter was only two years old. My son was in kindergarten. Every time I tried to call them, they refused to talk to me. We are not close.”

Xiao does not want to be a burden on her children. More importantly, she has been working in this city for more than 20 years. But her factory only began paying for her elderly insurance 10 years ago. When Xiao reached the legal retirement age, she could not receive her pension, because seven more years of payments were required.

“I am supposed to get my pension. Everybody deserves it. I have already joined the insurance system, so why can’t I get it?” Xiao said.

In 2014, Xiao took the local human resources bureau to court. Officials have responded to this issue. They urge enterprises to pay for social insurance according to the law, as they seek to protect the rights and interests of migrant workers.

As for Xiao, she says she will not retire until she receives a definite answer. She still works in Shenzhen. This is the only way she feels she is not a burden for her children.

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