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April 28, 2011

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Policy was intended to protect workers

CHINA'S current retirement policies and rules, implemented in 1978, stipulate that male cadres retire at age 60 and male workers at 55; female cadres at age 55 and female workers at 50.

The thinking at the time was that workers engaged in physical labor would work fewer years than cadres who were mainly doing office work and "intellectual" tasks. The policy was intended to protect health.

During the years of the planned economy, when everyone is assigned a job by the government, one was categorized as either a peasant, worker or cadre. This depended on family background, education, skills and positions.

Generally, workers were engaged in physical labor and cadres with office work. If a man was a cadre, one of his children was likely to inherit both his job and category as a cadre after he retired, often it would be his eldest son.

Since China started moving toward a market economy, the categorization of worker or cadre, which still exists, has become less of an issue for younger people, especially those working for foreign or private companies. National retirement policies have been amended numerous times and they are extremely detailed.

In current practices in Shanghai, the retirement age for both men and women mostly depends on one's professional title, position and nature of the employer.

Generally, the rules give employers considerable flexibility to decide retirement age. Most foreign and private enterprises ask women employees to retire at 55 and men at 60.

The situation is more complicated for state-owned companies, government departments and state-affiliated entities (such as non-private universities, media groups, schools, hospitals and other employers).

Generally, intellectuals and skilled workers retire later. And male-female age difference is increasingly in dispute.

At one time women were generally considered weaker than men and it was considered proper for them to retire and rest earlier - for both women engaged in physical work and those who worked in offices.

But as China has developed rapidly, many female intellectuals and managers consider the policy - originally intended to protect them - actually discriminates against them, prohibiting them from earning more salary and later social security benefits, and keeping them from making continued contributions in their chosen field.


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