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CPF contribution rate for Singapore workers above 55 should be raised: PAP Seniors Group

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Among other things, the PAP Seniors Group (PAP.SG) - led by chairman Tan Chuan-Jin - is proposing for the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rate for workers beyond the age of 55 to be increased to 37 per cent.

A GROUP in the People's Action Party (PAP) that champions elderly causes is calling for a number of changes to how seniors work, retire and live.

Among other things, the PAP Seniors Group (PAP.SG) - led by chairman Tan Chuan-Jin - is proposing for the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rate for workers beyond the age of 55 to be increased to 37 per cent.

This is the rate those aged 55 and below are now receiving.

Workers currently receive lower CPF contributions as they age beyond 55.

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Those above 55 to 60 see a CPF contribution rate of 26 per cent of wages, with employers contributing 13 per cent. This is lower than the 17 per cent employers contribute to workers aged 55 and below.

Workers older than 65 now have a contribution rate of 12.5 per cent, with employers contributing only 7.5 per cent of wages to the scheme.

"With longer life expectancy and a smaller base of family support, Singaporeans need to be even more self-reliant in securing a stream of lifelong income for retirement," the group said at a press conference on Wednesday at the PAP headquarters in Bedok.

In its 21-page position paper, which will be submitted to the Government later the same day, PAP.SG said self-reliance can be achieved through a "combination of mandatory and voluntary CPF contributions as well as sound financial planning".

Increasing the CPF contribution rates for workers beyond 55 would help boost their retirement adequacy, the paper noted, adding it would also ensure older workers are paid the same as their younger colleagues for doing the same job.

Mr Tan, who is House Speaker, said a motion will be tabled on the matters raised in the paper at the next Parliament sitting on Feb 11.

PAP.SG's paper comes weeks before the Budget statement is delivered by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Feb 18.

Mr Heng had earlier said the Budget will focus on areas where Singapore's needs are growing - including healthcare, education, security and defence.

Besides the call to increase the CPF contribution rate for older workers, PAP.SG said flexible work arrangements should be introduced to encourage seniors to continue working, if they want to.

"While many of our older workers want to, and can continue to take on full-time jobs, some prefer to work at a lower intensity through part-time work or with flexible work arrangements," the group noted in the paper.

The policies are already there for older workers to have more job opportunities, with grants to help industries redesign jobs for older workers, as well as train and acclimatise seniors to new industries.

"Where we can improve is to push for the adoption of these efforts in more industries," said the group, which added that in a tight labour market, seniors represent additional potential manpower.

"While we are in a good position today, there is more we can do to further remove obstacles for our older workers."

The paper also proposed employers be given more help to manage the costs of hiring seniors.

Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek said at the press conference that the rise of the sharing economy can mean more freelancing job opportunities for seniors, but they should receive help to access these roles, for example, by promoting digital literacy.

On the housing front, the group suggested revising developmental guidelines to encourage private sector developers to set up senior group homes that have assisted-living facilities.

One way to do this, said Mr Kwek, is to have a separate land-use category for private developers who want to build these homes - so they are not competing with other forms of residences, and can keep costs affordable.

Dr Chiang Hai Ding, a former PAP MP and member of PAP.SG, added that such group homes can also be built in new or existing Housing Board blocks.

PAP.SG said in its paper: "We recommend that (the authorities) consider a trial of small-scale group homes for frail seniors within our existing public housing estates. This can manifest in the conversion of several units."

"Moving forward, our seniors want more diverse housing options. Many seniors prefer to maintain their independence and age-in-place," the paper added.

Other suggestions include providing an allowance for full-time caregivers of frail parents, grandparents or relatives.

But the focus of the paper is on how seniors can continue working.

Ms Claire Chiang, a member of PAP.SG's resource panel, said on the sidelines of the event: "Whatever we are doing now is really paving the way for younger people as they get older."

By 2030, one in four Singaporeans is expected to be 65 years old and above, up from one in seven currently.

Ms Chiang, co-founder of hospitality group Banyan Tree, added that increasingly, older workers here are healthier and physically able to carry out tasks, and they want to continue working.

"This is really about creating a culture of care and respect for ageing talent... The sooner we learn now how to maximise such talent, the better it is for Singapore as a small nation, where human capital is an invaluable resource," she said.

THE STRAITS TIMES