60-year-old Dies on the Job, His Family Battles for Compensation
The death of a 60-year-old while on the job last week at a logistics company and his family’s battle for compensation have again shed light on concerns over the elderly in China reentering the job force.
The company told local media Tuesday that police have launched an investigation, and they would negotiate a settlement. His family, however, are worried that they may not be able to claim compensation for a work-related death since Sun had passed the country’s retirement age and, therefore, was “not a laborer” by legal definition.
In security video footage that emerged online Tuesday, the worker, surnamed Sun, collapsed at around 3.50 a.m. on Feb. 15 while sorting piles of parcels at the Ningbo branch of Chinese courier firm ZTO Express in the eastern Zhejiang province. Sun’s co-workers found him five minutes after he collapsed and rushed him to a local hospital where he was declared dead.
ZTO Express has since offered insurance compensation for an accidental death, tens of thousands of yuan to cover funeral costs, and other humanitarian expenses.
Sun’s family are not satisfied. Since the incident, they have insisted on compensation for a work-related death — which mandates significantly higher compensation than for an accidental death.
Sun’s nephew also told local media that his uncle was perfectly healthy with no history of chronic or hereditary diseases, and hinted that the employer is liable since overwork possibly led to the tragedy.
While investigations are still going on, comments on the case made by a representative from Ningbo’s human resource department sparked heated discussions online.
In response to queries from local media on the matter, the representative said that people over 60 were “no longer laborers.” He added that Sun’s family were not eligible for work injury compensation if he was not part of a work-injury insurance program.
The remarks drew widespread debate online, as many expressed concern over the issue at a time when more elderly people in China are projected to reenter the job market. To cope with an aging workforce and a low birthrate, China is planning to “gradually delay” the official retirement age.
“My first reaction to the news was that my life could be miserable when I’m old, since employers are refusing to hire older people to avoid risks and pension payments will be delayed if the retirement age is postponed,” wrote a user on Weibo, the microblogging platform.
Under current labor laws, the legal retirement age is 60 for men, while women in white-collar jobs retire at 55 and women in blue-collar jobs retire at 50. Those past the retirement age are not qualified to sign labor contracts that guarantee work injury compensation, severance pay, and statutory holidays, among others.
The incident also highlights the working conditions of those employed in China’s giant logistics industry. A survey conducted by courier information service Kuaidi 100 in 2021 showed that, overall, 71% of the respondents said their employers did not cover their insurance, while more than half said they didn’t sign contracts with employers at all,
(Header image: A ZTO Express logistics center in Xiangyang, Hubei province, Nov. 9, 2020. VCG)