The story appears on

Page B2

September 30, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Retirees forced to make tough choices with limited income

GRANDMOTHER Chen, a 56-year-old retiree who works part-time, has two weeks to decide whether to quit her current jobs to take care of her grandson. The baby is due in two weeks.

"My pension of 1,832 yuan (US$286) per month is far from enough to support living in Shanghai, especially with rising prices," says the accountant.

Chen's husband has a monthly pension of around 1,500 yuan, raising the couple's monthly income to about 3,300 yuan. "That's just enough if we live economically and don't spend on extras like weddings, Spring Festival and other occasions," says Chen.

Currently, Chen works as a part-time accountant for four small local companies - once or twice a week for each. This adds another 4,000 yuan a month. Her husband also continues to work for a factory even after he officially retired last year.

The couple is delighted to welcome a new family member, their grandson, but they cannot help worrying about money.

"We will definitely spend more. Even if we don't give money monthly to our children as do many other parents, we do want to buy presents for him, which can cost a fortune," Chen says.

If she quits some part-time work to take care of him - many grandparents devote themselves to a grandchild and baby-sit full time - there's less income. "But if I don't quit, it's quite expensive to hire a baby-sitter," she says.

Chen is only one among millions of retirees in Shanghai whose lifestyle is restricted because of pensions that are not enough to support them in a city where the consumer price index (CPI) keeps soaring. It gained 6.2 percent in August.

Shanghai is one of the "oldest" cities in China. Its social welfare bureau needs to feed around 3.3 million residents who are older than 60, around 23 percent of the registered population. That figure is estimated to reach 4.3 million, representing 30 percent, in five years.

Since 2005, the municipal government has paid a fixed extra on monthly pensions - this year it's 120 yuan a month - in an effort to catch up with soaring prices, but it isn't enough.

The average monthly pension in Shanghai is around 2,000 yuan, lower than that in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, and in Beijing.

"Four thousand yuan sounds like a lot compared with the past and compared across the country, but it is so expensive to live in Shanghai," says 72-year-old Zhang Xihao. "And we also have to pay for our medicine (the medical insurance is usually not enough) and many of us still need to give some money to our children now and then."

Zhang, with dozens of other retirees, lines up outside the bank on morning of the 20th every month to get his pension.

"I can't even wait until the afternoon because I need the money," he says. "I calculate so closely and we live so economically that we can support ourselves for a month with just the pension."

His pension is around 1,600 yuan a month, and his wife gets 1,500 yuan, for a total of 3,100 yuan. They only buy two kinds of vegetables for meals every day, which means two vegetarian dishes with rice for each meal. Once a week, when children and grandchildren visit for meals, they will serve meat.

They don't turn on the lights until after 6pm or 7pm, and they recycle water. Their only entertainment is joining the neighborhood's dance troupe twice a day, which is free. They also watch TV at home for around two hours a day.

After paying the monthly expenses, they don't have much left. "And that assumes there's no serious illness and all the four of our children are doing okay," says Zhang. "I can't help thinking what would happen if one of us gets sick or if something happens to one of our children."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend