Taiwan residents stage protests against pension reforms

Updated 2017-01-23 09:58:02 Xinhua

Tens of thousands of residents in Taiwan took to the streets Sunday to protest against proposed pension reforms.

Protesters began to gather in front of the office building of Taiwan leader Sunday morning, carrying slogans such as "Administrators are incapable" and "Taiwanese people are suffering."

The pension reforms were formally discussed by Taiwan authorities since Sunday morning. The plans delay the age at which a full pension can be drawn until 65 from 60, and gradually increase the insurance premium by about 6 percent.

The ending of pension benefits for military personnel, public servants and teachers is also under consideration, activating strong opposition from the three groups which formed the majority of protesters.

Under current policy, retired military staff, public servants and teachers enjoy 18 percent interest on pension deposits. The extra benefits were first introduced in 1950s to subsidize their poor incomes.

"I have paid pension insurance premiums for so many years. Currently I receive a monthly pension of about 51,000 New Taiwan dollars (1,600 U.S. dollars), but it will be reduced by almost a half after the reforms," said a protester surnamed Chao, who used to be a teacher in Taipei.

The reform is regarded as a key measure taken by the authorities, who said it was a must for retaining benefits for the next generation and avoiding bankruptcy of the pension financing system.

Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen said that it would end an unreasonable system left over from history.

But many protesters said it was just an excuse for the government to cut debt.

"The reforms are very unfair as they only target certain groups of public staff, while those in the higher legislative and judicial authorities are not included," said a protester surnamed Chang.

Some observers pointed out the reforms ignored issues such as basic subsistence for the elderly and a fixed baseline of pension, and that over-cutting pensions could throw more old people into poverty.

Lai Yueh-Tchienn, associate professor with Shin Chien University, said the strong reactions of residents reflected that the current government had not really listened to the people's opinions when promoting major new policies.

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