Vice Premier Ma Kai and several ministers joined lawmakers to review the country's social security programs at a meeting of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.
In response to questions on the financial situation of pension programs, Ma assured lawmakers that the programs had received more than they had paid out. However, the future outlook was not very optimistic as the growth of revenue had been slower than that of expenses, Ma said.
By the end of November, about 837 million Chinese had joined pension programs, including 338 million employed urban residents, while about 226 million received pensions.
China is an aging society, with people above 60 numbering more than 200 million in 2013 and accounting for 14.8 percent of the population. It is estimated that by 2053 about 487 million Chinese will be older than 60, accounting for a quarter of the world's senior citizens.
To cope with increasing pressure from a graying population, the government will need a policy package to boost revenue and streamline the management of pension programs, Ma said.
It might consider postponing the retirement age, channeling more dividends of state-owned enterprises to social security funds and encouraging citizens to try different pension plans.
China has different social security programs for rural residents, urban residents who do not work for certain employers, and employed urban residents.
Civil servants and staff of some public institutions are not included in social security programs but come under old state policies.
Policies in different provinces also vary and there is a huge gap between the rich east and less developed west.
Yin Weimin, human resources and social security minister, said unifying pension programs was a priority and the government would work out a plan next year. It will also start to include the 40 million civil servants, Party officials and public institution staff in social security programs.
Lawmaker Hao Ruyu noted that the money in people's social security accounts had depreciated due to limited investment options.
The funds can only be saved in banks or used to buy treasury bonds, which are safe but have low returns.
The government plans to diversify the investment but has yet decided how to do it, Yin said.
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