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55th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "World Renaissance: Changing roles for people and places", 25-28 August 2015, Lisbon, Portugal
China?s pension system is in need of comprehensive reform in that it is fragmented in its coverage and significantly under-funded. Attempts to improve the coverage will likely exacerbate the financial strains. Thus it is urgent to improve the financial sustainability of the system and one policy which has been proposed is to increase the retirement age. There have been similar proposals in many other countries and they are in line with improved health and life-expectancy. In China?s case the partial coverage of the system is related to industry structure with much the best coverage being for government and SOE employees. Since this structure differs considerably across the regions in China, it is likely that a change in retirement age will have significantly different effects across China?s regions. Inter-regional disparities are already very substantial in China and it will be important to know whether changes in pension arrangements will widen or narrow these disparities. It is the object of the research reported in this paper to throw light on this question. We construct a small theoretical model of two regions (coast and interior) having some Chinese characteristics. We distinguish between an informal sector in which workers have no pension coverage and a formal sector in which some workers are covered. In addition we distinguish between skilled and unskilled workers. There are two levels of government: a central government and two regional governments. Behaviour is based on utility maximisation by households and profit-maximisation by firms, with governments being exogenous. The model is solved numerically with parameter values based on recent Chinese data. Within this framework we model the effects of various shocks to the retirement age, the initial effects of which are changes in the labour supplied by skilled households. In the base case we find that in the short run an equi-proportionate increase in the retirement age in the two regions elicits substantially different labour supply responses in the two regions. These differences flow through to relative wage changes, output changes and, eventually, welfare changes. Effects through the budgets of the two regional governments are also important transmission channels. We find that welfare increases in both regions, with the improvement being substantially greater in the interior than in the coast, reflecting the greater relative importance of SOE and government employment in inland provinces. In the long run skilled labour is allowed to migrate from one region to another with the result that inter-regional differences are generally ameliorated.
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