The labour movement plans to submit to the Government its recommended changes to the CPF system following focus group discussions with union leaders and workers.
SINGAPORE: The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has called for a “holistic enhancement” to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system, including flexibility in lump sum withdrawal and greater transparency and predictability of the Minimum Sum.
In a media release on Wednesday (Jan 21), the labour movement said it held focus group discussions over two months in late 2014 with more than 250 union leaders and workers on their CPF concerns.
“Their feedback will be shared with the Government through the CPF Advisory Panel so that the impending CPF changes will take into account the needs and concerns of our workers,” it said.
MORE FLEXIBILITY, TRANSPARENCY
NTUC urged the Government to set a 10-year Minimum Sum Schedule with corresponding monthly payouts, for greater certainty and predictability of the Minimum Sum. Any adjustment or change to the Minimum Sum should also be explained to members in advance, it said.
On Lump Sum withdrawal, the labour movement said it recommends a percentage withdrawal of the Retirement Account balance – even for those who do not meet the Minimum Sum. To help CPF members understand the impact of withdrawals on monthly payouts, financial counselling should be provided, it said.
To discourage lump sum withdrawals, the Government could provide a substantial “non-withdrawal incentive”, it recommended.
MORE HELP IN BUILDING UP CPF SAVINGS
One suggestion was for contribution rates to be aligned for workers aged 50 to 55 years ago with those aged 50 and below. There is currently a gap of 2 percentage points in contribution rates for the two groups. NTUC also called for an increase in contribution rates for workers over 55 years old.
It also said that the CPF Ordinary Wage Ceiling – currently at S$5,000 – should also be raised by between S$500 and S$1,000, and progressively adjusted to correspond with the 80th income percentile, which was S$6,000 in 2012.
It also called for the wage ceiling to qualify for the maximum payouts under the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme – which augments the income of low-wage workers – to be raised from the current S$1,000 to S$1,200.
NTUC also proposed that the Government provide WIS top-ups to the Special Accounts of the self-employed if they make contributions to the accounts, and introduce incentives to encourage service buyers and employers to contribute to the CPF savings of self-employed and freelancers.
Additional tax reliefs should be given to those who contribute to their family members’ CPF, and computed based on the number of family members receiving top-ups, NTUC said, adding that the income ceiling of the receiving spouse or siblings should also be raised from the current S$4,000 to S$12,000 per annum.
Currently, CPF members receive an additional 1 per cent interest on the first S$60,000 combined CPF savings. The S$60,000 limit should be raised, NTUC said.
INCREASE MONTHLY PAYOUTS
CPF members should also have an option of receiving an increasing monthly payout, instead of the flat monthly payout they currently receive during retirement, it said. The Government could provide incentives to those who opt for lower initial monthly payouts or choose to defer the monthly payout to a later age.
For those able to meet the Minimum Sum, NTUC suggested that they be given the option to voluntarily top up their Minimum Sum beyond the national stipulated amount, subject to a cap.
The CPF Life Scheme should be strengthened as the basic national life annuity plan, NTUC said. Any alternative investment or annuity plans, that are high risk-high return, should be optional and supplement the scheme, it added.