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2018-06-29 02:53:24

It’s no secret that China’s population is aging rapidly. In light of the economic challenges the nation faces, one member of the country’s swelling ranks of seniors has proposed an unusual and unlawful solution.

A senior citizen from eastern China’s Jiangxi province recently posted on an online suggestion portal that the government should reward people for “volunteering” to relinquish their pensions — and, eventually, punish those who claim their entitlements by confiscating their property or even deporting them.

Chinese netizens soon spotted, shared, and ridiculed the proposition on microblogging platform Weibo, where the topic has racked up more than 2.18 million views. Some sarcastically asked for the real name of the misguided patriot, saying that someone so determined “to do good deeds for the country cannot be so low-key.”

“Citizens of our city must think of the country more,” the resident wrote on the website of the Yichun Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau. “Now that pensions are in short supply, people cannot just think of themselves, ignoring and infringing national interests.” The proposal added that through 2019, the government could reward citizens for voluntarily giving up their pensions before introducing a punitive system in 2020.

On June 22, the social security bureau responded that the suggestion is not feasible, as China’s Social Insurance Law entitles people to a monthly pension when they reach the legal retirement age if contributions have been made into their pension fund for at least 15 cumulative years.

Lu Quan, an associate professor at Renmin University who specializes in the pension system, told The Beijing News that the government must fulfill its legal obligation to provide pensions.

“No department will hold an individual to account if they do not claim their pension,” he commented. “But even if you don’t claim yours, you cannot ask other people to give up theirs, let alone ask the government not to fulfill its duty.”

Established in the ’90s, China’s pension system for urban workers has attracted much discussion in recent years as demand exceeds supply. A report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows that several regions risk running out of pension funds due to growing elderly demographics and recent economic reforms.

China’s population is quickly going gray, in part due to decades of family planning policies. By the end of 2016, there were some 230 million citizens aged over 60, according to China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs, accounting for 16.7 percent of the country’s total population, while the average monthly pension for retired employees of state enterprises that year was 2,373 yuan ($360) — a year-on-year increase of 5.4 percent.

Yet while the task of providing for such a teeming throng of seniors is no joke, the Jiangxi resident’s proposal provoked many wisecracks from Weibo users, who wondered where millions of Chinese pensioners would be sent. “Does [the proposal] mean to deport those retired or laid off to the U.S. or Sweden?” one user asked.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: An elderly vendor counts money in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, May 12, 2012. Yan Huang/VCG)