CPF must meet needs of the economically vulnerable
By Moana Jagasia, Research and Advocacy Coordinator, Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) and Vivienne Wee, Research and Advocacy Director, Aware
We refer to the article “Greater peace of mind when S’poreans retire” (May 17), which reported on the Government’s plans to improve Central Provident Fund (CPF) schemes to strengthen social safety nets for lower-income and vulnerable groups.
We hope these changes will fundamentally improve the state’s assurance of financial security for these groups, which include women.
The increase of the mandatory minimum sum to $155,000 from $148,000 is worrying, since existing minimum sums are already not affordable for many Singaporeans. Figures reveal that in 2012, only 48.7 per cent of CPF members who turned 55 that year were able to meet the target then, of $139,000.
As CPF is tied to employment, those who do not or cannot work do not have CPF-based retirement funds. These include full-time homemakers, who are mostly women.
According to a 2012 Manpower Ministry report, 43 per cent of women who are economically inactive cited housework and caregiving as their main reasons for leaving the workforce. Consequently, women have less CPF savings than men, a trend identified by the CPF Board.
As women live longer than men, it is crucial that their financial needs are met after they survive breadwinners who might have been supporting them. Increasingly, elderly women become dependent on children who, in turn, become a “sandwich generation” that needs to support both parents and their own children.
As for health care, research from 2010 shows that 51 per cent of elderly patients have their hospital bills paid from their family members’ Medisave. More females (64 per cent) than males (38 per cent) do so.
Meeting the needs of economically vulnerable groups should be the prime objective of a retirement scheme.
A 2005 World Bank paper on pension systems recommended that the state provide minimal pension payments for low-income groups which are unable to finance their own retirement savings.
While public assistance is supposed to assist the marginalised, according to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, only 3,164 people were on ComCare Long-Term Assistance last year.
State rhetoric about wanting more community involvement from Singaporeans has to be made meaningful through adequate social assistance that meets the needs of all Singaporeans throughout their lives, not just when they are employed.
This letter was first published in the Straits Times Forum on 26 May.