FIRST PER­SON UL­RICH O. BIRCH Ad­mirable in­ten­tions, but poor per­for­mance

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

Ed­i­tor’s note: Ul­rich O. Birch, 62, is chair­man of the Euro­pean Cham­ber in the south­west re­gion. Un­til De­cem­ber 2011, the Swiss na­tional was pres­i­dent of ABB Tur­bocharg­ing in Chongqing.

Isee the pol­icy from two per­spec­tives; my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as an ex­pat and, as the chair­man of the Euro­pean Cham­ber in the south­west re­gions of China from the com­pa­nies’ point of view.

I heard about the pol­icy in 2011, when it came into effect. I at­tended some com­pre­hen­sive pre­sen­ta­tions from Bei­jing in early 2012, be­fore Chongqing im­ple­mented the law.

I be­lieve that the law was in­tro­duced with good in­ten­tions and in the in­ter­ests of for­eign­ers and so­ci­ety as a whole. Ex­pats are not op­posed to laws that pro­vide equal treat­ment for Chi­nese and for­eign­ers.

How­ever, the pol­icy lacks clar­ity, which has led to poor im­ple­men­ta­tion and jeop­ar­dizes the good in­ten­tions.

Fur­ther­more, since for­eign­ers are sub­ject to the law, shouldn’t the pol­icy also be avail­able in English? Ac­cord­ing to my un­der­stand­ing, this is not the case.

On pa­per, the pol­icy may look fine, but in terms of prac­ti­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion, things are quite dif­fer­ent.

For ex­am­ple, can for­eign­ers re­ceive ma­ter­nity ben­e­fits if they have more than one child? If fe­male em­ploy­ees de­cide to have a se­cond baby, do they still get the ben­e­fit?

Re­tire­ment in­sur­ance also con­fuses me. Many ex­pats stay for a short time and then re­turn to their home coun­tries. They still con­trib­ute in their home coun­tries, be­cause fail­ure to do so means they might lose “con­tri­bu­tion years”, which will af­fect their pen­sions.

For in­stance, I was em­ployed by Switzer­land’s ABB in Chongqing. I paid my con­tri­bu­tions to the Chi­nese so­cial in­sur­ance, even though I was in the Swiss so­cial in­sur­ance sys­tem as well.

Even if I paid six years’ con­tri­bu­tions in China, I wouldn’t be pay­ing in Switzer­land, un­less I made ad­di­tional pay­ments, which would re­duce my pen­sion sig­nif­i­cantly.

If I pay the com­pul­sory con­tri­bu­tion in China and also vol­un­tar­ily in Switzer­land, I have to make two pay­ments, which is un­fair.

In ad­di­tion, the pol­icy as­sumes that when for­eign­ers leave the coun­try, they can take their con­tri­bu­tions with them. How­ever, only ex­pats who leave China af­ter 15 years or longer in the coun­try — a very small num­ber — can claim re­tire­ment ben­e­fit.

If they leave ear­lier, for­eign­ers can ask for their in­di­vid­ual con­tri­bu­tions to be re­funded, but the much higher con­tri­bu­tion made by their com­pa­nies can­not be taken out. This makes em­ploy­ing for­eign­ers in China un­nec­es­sar­ily ex­pen­sive. In ad­di­tion, how and where they can claim a re­fund re­mains a mys­tery.

Com­pa­nies are no longer hir­ing for­eign em­ploy­ees be­cause of the cost, and that may see an in­creas­ing num­ber of ex­pats leav­ing China.

That would be a great loss for China’s grow­ing econ­omy be­cause for­eign work­ers have brought valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ter­na­tional prac­tices. I would hate to see for­eign­ers leav­ing China be­cause of these rea­sons. I am fas­ci­nated by China and vol­un­tar­ily chose to stay here af­ter my pri­mary as­sign­ment ended. I am will­ing to con­trib­ute my knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to China and Europe to pro­mote bet­ter co­op­er­a­tion. Ul­rich O. Birch was talk­ing to Luo Wangshu.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.