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China Daily Website

Foreigners stay cool to insurance

Updated: 2013-12-13 01:30
By ZHAO HUANXIN and HE DAN ( China Daily)

One-fifth of expat workers enrolled in social security programs, official says

China's effort to cover foreign workers in its social security net has received a lukewarm response, with authorities conceding that only a small portion of expats have joined the system.

Two and half years after the enactment of China's Social Insurance Law, which extends the country's social security program to foreign workers, more than 200,000 expats have participated in various social insurance programs, said Hu Xiaoyi, vice-minister of human resources and social security.

The official said about 20 percent of expats working in China had joined the country's social security programs covering basic pension, medical, unemployment, working injury and maternity benefits.

"This is a small ratio," Hu told China Daily on Thursday.

China has negotiated social security agreements with a dozen countries over the past three years, Hu said at a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office on Thursday.

The discussions aim to simplify the payment of social security contributions for foreigners in China and Chinese citizens working overseas, according to the ministry sources.

The latest deal was signed with Denmark on Monday, Hu said, adding that such accords will help citizens to participate in social insurance policies in the country where they work.

William Willcox, a 26-year-old Briton working in Beijing, said he had participated in the public social insurance plan since he started working in China two years ago, and his employer bought him another private health insurance plan.

However, the English teacher found most of the insurance plans of little importance.

"I don't think an unemployment plan would help foreigners. If we are unemployed, we lose our visas and rights to stay in China," Willcox said.

He said he gave up claiming for medical expenses after he realized the procedure was too complicated when he went to a hospital in Shanghai.

For a pension, he said he would not work longer than 15 years in China, the minimum period to benefit from the endowment insurance.

"I have plans to stay in China for a few years. However, I see myself returning to the EU in the near future, as social welfare is better there," he added.

Lu Quan, an associate professor specializing in social insurance at Renmin University of China, said he believed expats lacked enthusiasm to join Chinese basic social insurance due to flaws in the system.

"Speaking of the pension plan, expats worry that their purchasing power will decline after they return to their home countries if they mainly live on the slender pension claimed from China, or if their mother country doesn't recognize their contributions during the period they worked in China," he said.

Lu proposed China speed up international discussions on the payment of social security contributions and consider loosening medical reimbursement policies.

Wang Huiyao, director-general of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing think tank, said China should introduce more incentives for expats.

"Only a small number of foreigners can obtain a Chinese ‘green card', so most expats worry that it is not necessary to pay for social insurance programs in China as it is hard for them to stay in China for long," he said.

"The government should consider giving credits for foreigners to gain a green card if they have paid the social insurance for a specified long period of time," he said.

Contact the writers at zhaohuanxin@chinadaily.com.cn and hedan@chinadaily.com.cn

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