What Is China’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF)?

The National Social Security Fund in China is a government-run investment fund established primarily to provide a reserve of funds for China's social security system. The fund is managed by the National Council for Social Security Fund. According to the Council's annual report, the fund held 2.235 trillion RMB in assets (US$316.18 billion) at the end of 2018.

Key Takeaways

  • China's National Social Security Fund had $316.18 billion in assets at the end of 2018.
  • The National Council for Social Security Fund is responsible for management of the assets.
  • The NSSF primarily provides Chinese workers with social security income in retirement years.

Understanding China's National Social Security Fund

China has had a social security system since 1951. On August 1, 2000, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council established the National Social Security Fund, along with the National Council for Social Security Fund to oversee its assets. The Council is a ministerial-level agency directly under the State Council.

The National Council for Social Security Fund works under the oversight of China’s State Council in managing assets that can become available in retirement, for survivors, and through disability. The NSSF’s asset base consists of allocations from the central government, transfers of state-owned assets, investment income, and funds raised via other methods approved by the State Council. The National Council for Social Security Fund can also work in conjunction with China’s provincial governments to provide or manage certain fund assets. 

Inside the Fund

The National Council for Social Security Fund is run by a board of directors composed of a chairman, deputy directors, and directors, all of whom are appointed by China’s State Council. The National Council is setup constructively to provide for operational efficiency. This includes three committees and 11 departments as follows:

Committees:

  • Investment Committee
  • Risk Management Committee
  • Expert Appraisal Committee

Departments:

  1. General Office
  2. Asset Allocation & Research Department
  3. Finance & Accounting Department
  4. Equity & Fixed-Income Investment Department
  5. Global Investment Department
  6. Equity Management Department
  7. Legal & Compliance Department
  8. Pension Management Department
  9. Pension Accounting Department
  10. Information Technology Department
  11. Human Resources Department

In total, this accounts for approximately 140 employees. Committees can be made up of any of the Fund’s employees. However, most committee decisions must be approved by the committee chairman. The Investment Committee makes decisions on the types of investments the NSSF invests in. The Risk Committee manages the risk framework for the Fund and also oversees risk due diligence of investments. The Expert Appraisal Committee is usually called on during and after the selection of investment managers or custodians.

The assets under management by the National Council amounted to 2.235 trillion RMB (US$316.18 billion) at the end of 2018. The National Council releases an annual report discussing NSSF details annually, usually in mid-July.

The National Council invests either through its own direct investments or through the entrusting of an investment manager. Direct investments mainly include:

  • Bank deposits
  • Trust loans
  • Equity investments
  • Equity investment funds
  • Transfers of existing state-owned shares
  • Indexed stock investments

Entrusted investments include allocations to managers in the areas of:

  • Domestic stocks
  • Foreign stocks
  • Bonds
  • Securities investment funds
  • Derivative financial instruments

At the end of 2018, the NSSF reported the following details:

  • Domestic investment assets of 2.061 trillion yuan, accounting for 92.20% of the total social security fund assets
  • Overseas investment assets of 174.360 billion yuan, accounting for 7.80% of the total social security fund assets
  • 2018 investment return rate of -2.28%
  • An annual average investment return rate of 7.82% since the fund’s establishment

92% of the total social security fund assets are in domestic investments.

Chinese Government Funds

Like most countries, government funds provide an interesting source of assets for a variety of governmental purposes. Other noteworthy funds managed by the Chinese government also include:

National Social Security Funds Globally

Countries across the globe allocate funds for social security payouts to their citizens, with a variety of different frameworks. China’s NSSF is one of the largest in the world.

The International Social Security Association plays a big part in collaborating informational research and consulting on best practices. Its website provides profiles for nearly all of the world’s countries.