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aws全区号(www.2km.me)_No time for pensions complacency

admin2021-10-2223

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MALAYSIA’S pension system may have ranked third in Asia in a recent international poll but there is a huge crisis looming and this is no time to rest on our laurels.

We all like to win awards and to be rated highly against our peers, so when the Malaysian pension system was ranked third in Asia by the Mercer CFA Institute global pension index 2021 many people may have felt quite proud of the accolade even though Malaysia ranked only 23rd out of 43 in global terms.

However, closer examination reveals cause for concern. Among experts here in Malaysia in government, finance and academia, there is a universal consensus that the pension system is not adequate to meet the needs of an ageing population.

The Mercer-CFA methodology looks at 50 indicators across three categories of adequacy, sustainability and integrity.

For 2021, 43 global systems were given an overall index value weighted 40% for adequacy, 35% for sustainability and 25% for integrity. The weightings have remained constant since the index was launched in 2009.

Although on face value the methodology looks comprehensive, it does have limitations which are given better treatment in alternative schemes.

The issue of pension coverage, for example, is not well handled. The evolving demands of pension systems in a changing world of work are also not well captured.

For example, the World Bank emphasises adequacy and whether pensions prevent poverty in old age. They also focus on affordability, financial soundness and sustainability, predictability so that benefits are protected, indexed and risk adjusted, equity to deal with redistribution between lifetime rich and lifetime poor and robustness to withstand economic, demographic, political or other shocks.

The OECD has recently highlighted how pension schemes handle incomplete careers and flexible retirement ages as well as the move to freelance, gig-economy and non-standard ways of earning an income.

In all cases, the impact of Covid-19 must also be taken into account. In Malaysia, almost uniquely around the world, the use of pension savings withdrawals under i-Lestari, i-Sinar and i-Citra which have left 6.3 million Account 1 holders and 9 million Account 2 holders with less than RM10,000 balance.

So, pension coverage is a critical issue here which has changed structurally during the pandemic.

Malaysia’s working-age population is around 23.3 million people with 16 million in the workforce and 7.3 million outside of the workforce. Unemployment and underemployment account for around 3.2 million people or 19.8% of the workforce.

People in these categories will have unstable pension contributions at best and possibly no formal pensions at all.

Around 15.3 million people are actively working, with 3.8 million in the informal sector with no regular pension coverage.

Around 11.6 million work in the formal sector but 4.1 million of these have no formal pension cover. This leaves only 5.8 million active Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors and 1.7 million other formal pension contributors mainly in the civil service.

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