SINGAPORE: In the last three years, about 65 per cent of applications to withdraw money from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) earlier due to medical reasons have been successful said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 15).
Under the Medical Grounds Scheme, CPF members can withdraw or start their payouts before the stipulated payout age of 65.
Eligibility criteria they have to meet under the scheme include being permanently incapacitated, terminally ill, or having a severely impaired life expectancy due to illness. Such applications have to be accompanied by the relevant doctors’ certification, the minister said.
Mrs Teo was responding to Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah on the percentage of successful appeals for an earlier withdrawal of CPF payouts.
The remaining 35 per cent were not successful because applicants did not meet the eligibility conditions and were referred to help avenues for help, such as Workforce Singapore and the Social Services Office, Mrs Teo said.
She added that the scheme will continue to be available to eligible members who may need to withdraw or start their payouts earlier than 65 years old.
MORE OPTIONS FOR EARLY WITHDRAWAL?
In her supplementary question, Dr Lee asked if it is possible to provide a third option of making the payout eligibility age lower for some such as those who have retired at 62 and do not qualify under the Medical Grounds Scheme.
"What they don't have is money so they are asking whether CPF board will consider another option ... They are prepared to get a lower sum but at an age of 62," said Dr Lee.
In response, Mrs Teo said that Singapore's payout eligibility age, which was raised to 65 last year, is in line with its international counterparts. Among the 35 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, more than half have a pension withdrawal age of 65 or older, she said.
"In the light of increasing longevity, people living longer and the likelihood of them working longer, in fact, some countries have already set in motion the raising of the pension withdrawal age," she added.
[That is all very well and technical and brilliantly rational. But the human question still is this: Retirement is at 62. CPF Life payout is 65. For those who are unable to find re-employment between 62 and 65, what do they live on?]
For instance, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany are in the process of raising their pension withdrawal age to 67 years old.
"So against such a backdrop, we must really ask if it is wise to lower our own payout eligibility age ... especially considering how we now have re-employment legislation that puts an obligation on the employers to offer work up till 67," Mrs Teo said.
Since 2013, employers are obliged to offer employers continued employment after the age of 62, up to the age of 65. Of those eligible for re-employment, more than 98 per cent were offered re-employment.
In 2017, the re-employment age was raised further from 65 to 67.
In the last 10 years, employment rate for residents between 60 and 64 years old has risen from 47.2 per cent in 2008 to 60.4 per cent in 2018 partly due to these changes, said Mrs Teo.