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With Singapore’s Parliament well in session, Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower, provided clarity on a number of Parliamentary questions raised by MPs and NMPs around topics such as retirement adequacy, jobs for ITE and polytechnic graduates, managing heat stress for workers, and more.
We’ve summarised the HR-relevant points of discussion below.
To MP Liang Eng Hwa’s question on the state of retirement adequacy for current and future retirees, Minister Teo referred to the full combination of retirements funds – apart from CPF, the others include private savings, housing monetisation through the Lease Buyback Scheme, as well as family support.
Nonetheless, with the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) designed to cover basic living expenses, it is used as an indicator for retirement adequacy. Over the last decade, the proportion of active CPF members attaining their cohort BRS at age 55 has improved from about two in five to more than three in five.
Going forward, she is optimistic that retirement adequacy will continue to improve for younger cohorts, given that their CPF balances have grown with rising incomes and labour force participation (LFPR), which can translate to higher CPF monthly payouts in retirement.
A recent study by Ministry of Finance (MOF) showed that the median real income of younger Singaporeans born in the 1970s was double compared to those born in the 1950s (when both were in their 40s). The younger generation also had a LFPR 10 percentage points higher.
“As a result, the median real Ordinary and Special Account CPF balances of the younger generation was three times higher than the older generation, with balances at the 20th percentile more than seven times higher,” she shared.
ITE and polytechnic graduate employment outcomes
MP Desmond Choo expressed concern about ensuring that ITE and polytechnic graduates can continue to get good jobs in light of the economic slowdown. To this, the Minister cited 2018 data, which showed around nine in ten graduates who entered the labour market were employed within six months after their final examinations. This figure has remained stable for the past ten years.
She went on to identify the various initiatives the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Ministry of Education (MOE) have taken help students prepare for and find employment – for example, career guidance programmes by the ITE and polytechnics, SkillsFuture Work-Study programmes for diplomas and post-diplomas, and the Career Starter programmes launched by Workforce Singapore (WSG) in January this year.
She added: “Although businesses are facing greater uncertainty, the advance 3rd Quarter labour market data indicates that employment continued to grow in sectors such as professional services and community, social & personal services.”
Managing heat stress for workers
To NMP Anthea Ong’s query on tackling heat stress in the workplace, Minister Teo cited the WSH Guidelines on Managing Heat Stress in the Workplace, which inform employers to conduct risk assessments associated with heat stress and the precautionary actions they should take.
These include acclimatising newly arrived workers who come from colder climates, providing regular rest breaks at shaded areas, making cool drinking water accessible, and educating workers on the symptoms and seriousness of heat-related disorders.
Further, the WSH Council has also been disseminating information on heat-related safety and health risks, while total WSH consultants are expected to advise companies on what they can do to protect workers from heat stress.
The Minister also provided data on the incidents so far: “In the last three years, 10 workers suffered injuries caused by heat stress or work-related heat disorders, of which one was fatal. They comprised less than 0.03% of all workplace injuries and occupational diseases in the same period.”
Unclaimed CPF monies
Unclaimed CPF monies was the topic of queries by MP Foo Mee Har and MP Chong Kee Hiong.
“The first question is whether most CPF monies go unclaimed? The answer is no. In fact, about 98% of all unused CPF monies belonging to deceased members were distributed by CPF Board or the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO) over the last five years. Around 2% are unclaimed,” clarified Minister Teo.
Since the vast majority of deceased members had made nominations, their monies were distributed to their beneficiaries typically within a month of CPF Board being notified of the member’s passing.
For member who did not make a nomination (more likely those below the age of 45), the monies may still be distributed to their next-of-kin according to the intestacy and Muslim inheritance laws.
“How does it happen? CPF Board will pass the monies to the PTO typically within three weeks of notification of the member’s passing. The PTO will then trace and search for the next-of-kin,” Minister Teo explained, adding that there is no time limit for the next-of-kin to approach PTO to submit their claims on unclaimed monies.
CPF for housing
MP Gan has had questions around the appeals received to request use of monies in the CPF Retirement Account to service HDB housing loans or purchase HDB flats.
Acknowledging that the key objectives of the CPF system are to help with the three basic needs of housing, medical care and day-to-day spending, Minister Teo added that generally, members can only use their RA savings for housing after setting aside their BRS.
“However, the CPF Board does exercise flexibility on a case-by-case basis,” she clarified. “Over the last five years, CPF Board approved around 80% of such appeals per year on average. These are mostly cases where some of members’ OA savings had been transferred into the RA when they turned 55.”
She also noted other ways the CPF Board works with HDB to help members whose appeals were rejected. “For example, HDB may consider reducing or deferring the housing instalments to help flat owners who have difficulty repaying their HDB loan.”