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CLICK TO ENLARGEPETALING JAYA: With the country’s economy entering into recovery mode, it is timely to put in place comprehensive social safety nets and measures to boost the retirement savings.

Economists when contacted by StarBiz generally opined that the government should seriously look into retirement security, especially after the Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) retirement savings took a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic.The Covid-19 has disrupted businesses and livelihood, and those in dire need had been forced to withdraw from their EPF savings via the i-Sinar and i-Citra schemes, resulting in lower retirement savings.

To date, the total disbursements from the schemes stand at a whopping RM67.6bil.

To ensure retirees have adequate savings throughout their retirement, economists suggested measures including the reinstatement of the EPF contribution rate by employees, option to contribute at a higher rate, raising the maximum amount of the EPF allowable for tax-deductions, increasing the retirement age as well as deepening financial literacy to enhance retirement savings.

EPF CEO Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan (pic below) has expressed the provident fund’s concern over retirement security, especially with 46% of EPF members below the age of 55 having less than RM10,000 in the EPF.EPF Amir Hamzah Azizan

He noted that the pandemic has led to a significant drop in the percentage of members meeting the basic savings threshold which is RM240,000 at age 55 from 36% to 27%.

This is due to the p andemic-related withdrawals to supplement the contributors’ income during the crisis.

As of Aug 31, total EPF members stood at 15.1 million, out of which 7.6 million were active members.

According to Sunway University economics professor Yeah Kim Leng, (pic below) rebuilding the retirement savings of individuals and designing a more comprehensive social safety net, especially for those aged 50 years and above will be necessary to forestall the old-age crisis.Sunway University economics professor Yeah Kim Leng

“The inadequate-saving problem among the low income households is almost a certainty given the projected increase in life expectancy,” he said.

While retirement security has been on the long-term radar of policy circles for many years, he said its importance and urgency have ratcheted up post the Covid-19 pandemic.He cited the EPF data showing that 46% of members below 55 years old having less than RM10,000 in their accounts as a stark reminder of the potential old-age crisis looming over the country’s socio-economic landscape within 10 years or closer.

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