The Ministry of Labor and Social Security is considering a raise in the retirement age to ease the impending welfare burden of China's rapidly ageing society, AFP reported, citing state media. A ministry official said a proposal was likely to be put forward by the end of the year. China's legal retirement age is 60 for men and 55 for most women but many employees of state-owned enterprises have been allowed to retire in their 40s and 50s in order to make openings for fresh graduates. In addition, better nutrition and healthcare have led to a rise in life expectancy from about 35 years in the mid-20th century to close to 72 years nowadays. With China's social security fund US$102 billion in the red last year, up from a 2000 deficit of US$36 billion, economists say there are few options besides making people work longer.