Chairperson Wang’s involvement in the reforms extends back to the1990s. She worked at MOLSS as vice minister in 1994. Her appointment coincided with the most tumultuous reform years. At that time SOEs still distributed pensions. As pensions were linked to profitability, SOEs were sometimes unable or unwilling to pay, so pensioners could not be assured of receiving payments in full or on time, and it was difficult for government to force timely payment.
Since 1998, pension distribution has been organized by MOLSS and distributed by banks to individuals with authorization by social insurance administrative agencies. Funds shortages are covered by central and local governments. Initially, some 38 million people were covered by this urban pension system and the changes assured them of a reliable, consistent payment. It was a change that, of course, won the approval of pensioners.
Chairperson Wang played a key role in implementing the changes, explaining them to those involved and supervising the system. Those who know her praise her as a key figure in researching China’s income discrepancies and as a strong advocate of the need to extend the rural pension system. When asked about the most significant obstacles she faced during her decade in charge, she laughs and candidly responds, “Human nature.”
“There were distinctly different interests involved, including governments at both the central and local levels. In particular, the enterprises wanted to contribute as little as possible and individual workers were reluctant to contribute at all because they believed they were simply relieving the burden from the SOEs and the government.
“Our challenge was to address the various interests, correct misconceptions and to explain the changes as a healthy development in our changing society and economy,” she said.