When communist Vietnam recently introduced private retirement funds, it was taking a step not only closer to capitalism, but also toward changing a young pension system that some worry may buckle if citizens get old before getting rich.
Last year marked the first time workers could put part of their paychecks into private retirement accounts, on top of the share contributed to the state pension. But analysts say bigger, systemic change is needed to enable retirement for all, even as the International Labor Organization says the state fund is robust.
Retirees would seem to be the envy of the neighborhood, receiving payouts worth 75% of their prior wages — the fifth-highest among 70 countries in the Allianz Global Pension Report 2020.
But Vietnam’s system covers just 40% of the elderly, which explains why women keep working longer there than in all but five other countries, the report shows.
The retirement age for employees in the public sector and at state-owned enterprises is set at 60 for men, 55 for female office workers and 50 for female blue-collar workers. This has remained unchanged since around the time of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, even as life expectancy has risen to more than 80 in urban areas.
The government work report presented to the National People’s Congress in March stated that “the statutory retirement age will be raised in a phased manner” as part of the new five-year plan for 2021 through 2025.
Beijing sees this as necessary to alleviate pressure on the social safety net and head off a labor shortage that could set it back in its power struggle with Washington. But resistance is strong from young graduates concerned about the impact on their career prospects as well as from grandparents expected to care for grand children after retirement.