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IT can be so scary thinking of what will happen to our children when currently RM101 billion of EPF monies have been disbursed to more than 7.4 million members to cope with the pandemic, leaving 73% of them in a serious state of having inadequate funds to retire above the poverty line.

There is also a significant drop in the percentage of members meeting the basic savings threshold of RM240,000 at age 55, from 36% in 2020 to an estimated 27% by the end of this year.

This has led to calls for the government to beef up the country’s social protection system for the rakyat and cynical voices for the EPF to be revamped.

Yet, what is sorely needed is not so much social protection but social security as Malaysia is transiting to become a developed, high-income country.

Social protection is defined as the set of policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and interruption/loss of income.

Critics are barking up the wrong tree, as the government – to its credit – has already extensively taken into account the social protection agenda in Budget 2022 and the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025), the latter being aligned with the shared prosperity initiative encompassing the three dimensions of economic empowerment, environmental sustainability and social re-engineering.

On the other hand, “social security” refers to the comprehensive mechanisms and coverage in high-income countries, and is less applicable to new areas such as community and area-based schemes.

Ensuring the rakyat has access to a minimum standard of living to face life during retirement – amid the country approaching an ageing population where a relatively lesser number of employable rakyat are supporting an increasing number of retirees – is what social security is all about.

This is where the dwindling EPF balance of many Malaysians becomes a grave concern. In this regard, Malaysia does not have to reinvent the wheel judging by the many fanciful and creative ideas put forth by many parties, which will only complicate implementation.

The latest report of the Global Pension Index 2021 of the Mercer CFA Institute, which ranks the best countries for pensions and retirements, puts Malaysia in the 23rd position out of 43 countries, in which Iceland is in the first position with an index score of 84.2, while Thailand is in the last position with a score of 40.6.

Malaysia scores 59.6 – a slight drop from 60.1 in 2020 – which means our pension and retirement scheme is better than Spain (24th position with a score of 58.6), China (28th, 55.1), Italy (32nd, 53.4), Austria (33rd, 53.0), Japan (36th, 49.8) and South Korea (38th, 48.3).

There will be people who would pooh-pooh the ranking as if it is done by some pro-Malaysia experts to make the country looks good.


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