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Release CPF savings for hardship needs

时间:2019-07-29    点击: 次    来源:网络转载    作者:佚名 - 小 + 大

release cpf savings for hardship needs

● 王彼得 by peter ong   i believe more and more people today are crying out "money no enough."     having "not enough money" to spend is but a small matter. what is more troubling is having no money to meet daily expenses. imagine a family that is short on food and the basic necessities, and the breadwinner is compelled to turn to loan sharks for money. could this happen in singapore?  i am afraid the answer is yes. and as the number of jobless increases, more and more families are likely to meetthis fate.   not long ago, mr lim swee say, ntuc deputy secretary-general, projected that the rate of unemployment would rise to 4 per cent before the end of the year, and reach 7 per cent next year. given a workforce of 1.8 million, the number of unemployed could exceed 120,000.  unemployment affects both the men and women, and the young and old. but the most vulnerable are those aged 40 andabove. likely to be the sole breadwinners, these middle-agedworkers hail from white- and blue-collar jobs and different educational background.  generally, when women workers are retrenched, families get to lose one of their income earners. when young workers are laid off, most of them will just fall back on their parents for financial support. and when workers about to retire lose their jobs, they can dig into their cpf savings (once they reach withdrawal age) to tide them through. however, when men aged 40 and above are asked to quit, most of them run into a dead end.  men aged 40 and above are most vulnerable because they are a favourite target for retrenchment. they are also likely to be shunned in any recruitment exercise because their salary is generally higher than young new recruits dueto their longer length of service. management realises that they could lower costs if they replace these older workers with younger but lower-salaried ones.  older workers are also likely to have greater financial commitments - such as car and mortgage loans, children stillattending school and, for some, elderly parents to look after.   a human resource manager from a cruise company told me recently that she detected a desperate sense of "hunger and thirst" when this category of workers showed up for job interviews.  she said: "most of them have been looking for jobs for several months. some of them are even prepared to accept half of what they used to earn because they understand that,without any job, they would have no income. even if they hadsome savings, these would be depleted in a few months' time."  nevertheless, her company's stand is to recruit the mostsuitable candidate-not the person who is willing to work at the lowest pay-for the job. so, even 

though she empathised with the candidates, she had to reject them.  the manager's observations have not been off the mark. very few singaporeans have enough cash savings. if they losttheir jobs, they would find themselves in a tight spot within a few months.  well, perhaps the salaried workers are not to be blamed for being caught in this situation. not too long ago, it wascommon social practice for singaporeans to go for an overseas holiday at least once a year. for those with more cash, they would dream of owning a car or a house. there is an even greater number of singaporeans who do not see the need to save because they are already contributing to the cpf.   i, too, often heard singaporeans complain that they found it difficult to save because of the high cost of living.  so, when the economy suddenly took a turn for the worse,many singaporeans were caught unprepared. even economic analysts were feeling optimistic that "tomorrow will be better" just before july last year, when the financial crises hit the region.   no matter what the cause, the current economic situation has led to the emergence of a large number of unemployed singaporeans, who are becoming increasingly anxious not only because they have no jobs, but also becausethey have put their families in dire straits.  what can be done? some of them are prepared to "lower their social status" and sell their car and property. but prices have dropped. worse still, it is difficult to find a buyer at this juncture. for hdb property owners, buying and selling of flats are further restricted by government regulations.  someone once told me that singaporeans used to be "property-rich but cash-poor." today, they are equally poor in both aspects.   recently, the newspapers had reported that many singaporeans tried to make ends meet by terminating their insurance policies, forgoing tuition classes for their children and even ending maids' contracts. but what about the other running household expenses-the daily meals, children's school fees, electricity bills and transport costs?  i am sure no one will object if we suggest that something be done to help these financially-strapped families. the issue is: how do we help them?  unemployment subsidies? we have learnt from the experiences of other countries that this form of social welfare does not work. it not only puts a strain on the country's limited resources, but also does nothing to encourage the unemployed to look for a job. so we have to besteadfast against implementing such a measure.  lately, we have repeatedly heard a lot about structural unemployment and the government's and ntuc's efforts to encourage singaporeans to train and re-train for new higher-skilled jobs. while these eff

orts are welcomed, they mean little to the unemployed, whose bank savings are fast dwindling. moreover, training requires time and the effects will not be known till much later.  last week, the ntuc announced that it will set up a thrift and loan cooperative that can provide low-interest loans to needy workers. the labour movement hopes that the cooperative can serve as the "people's bank" and reduce their dependence on loan sharks to finance their needs. thisis good news indeed, as police statistics have shown that more and more singaporeans from the middle- and lower-incomegroups are resorting to loan sharks for financial help in times of difficulty.   but whether the loan comes from ntuc thrift or the loan sharks, it still has to be repaid. so, why don't we allow the unemployed to use their own money - locked in their cpf savings - to finance their own needs?  the cpf started off as a savings scheme for old age. this initial purpose was considered "sacred." today, we are even able to use our cpf savings for investments. as such, it does not make sense if our savings could not to used to meet our urgent needs in times of economic difficulties.   if we view the issue from a different perspective - that is, regard savings as a protection against rainy days -then we should all the more allow those in financial difficulties to use their cpf savings to help them tide overthe stormy period. after all, what we are experiencing now is an unprecedented major financial crisis.  of course, we need to ensure that there is no abuse of the system once the cpf savings are opened up for this purpose. there are several ways to go about this. for instance, the account holder can only withdraw monthly a certain percentage of his last drawn salary. he can also be allowed to withdraw his cpf savings for a period that is limited to six months or a year.   the cpf board must be satisfied that the applicant has truly been retrenched by his employer, and not someone who chose to be retrenched because he does not feel like working. the authority should also consider the applicant's family background before granting him access to the funds. the applicant must be above a certain age, and has cpf savings that exceed a certain minimum level.   in addition, an applicant who was paid retrenchment benefit should be entitled to withdraw a smaller sum.  times are bad now. it is perhaps the right occasion to allow cpf account holders to dip into their savings to meet their urgent financial needs. of course, the whole purpose is to help them tide over the difficult period and the key word is "to cope with an emergency." given that understanding, when the economy picks up or recovers, the board can consider getting the account holder to return (with

interest) what he has taken out.   after all, this is a form of borrowing. the only difference is that the applicant borrows from his own savings. this way, he does not have to turn to a banker who is likely to reject his request, or resort to loan sharks and run the risk of having them knock at your door in the middle of the night demanding repayment.(the writer is a journalist with lianhe zaobao's business desk.)用公积金解燃眉之急  这一阵子,大喊“钱不够用”的人一定很多。WWW.relunwen.COM  钱不够用事小,最可怕是口袋没钱可用了,家中断粮断奶粉,逼得四处找大耳窿。有这样的家庭吗?我断定有,而且随着失业人口的增加,还会越来越多。  根据全国职总副秘书长林瑞生的预测,失业率有可能在今年底之前攀升到4%,明年则可能是7%;以180万就业人口来算,失去饭碗的人有可能超过12万。  当中有妇女也有男性职工,脸孔从年轻到年老都有,不过最为脆弱的,应该是40岁以上,靠自己一份收入撑起整个家的中年人。他们不限于蓝领,也不限于任何教育程度。  一般上,妇女被裁,可能是双收入的家庭少了一个收入来源;年轻人被裁,也多数可以“回”家靠父母;快退休的人,则差不多可以按时领公积金。但40多的男性雇员,多数无路可退。  他们的脆弱性,主要表现在3个“最”:最容易被裁、最难找工作,以及经济负担最大。  前两者和年资、收入有关。制订裁员名单时,一些公司发现裁掉他们,成本可省得最多;反之找人手时,请年轻人又比请他们便宜。谈到经济负担,这个年龄层的雇员,往往有孩子在上学,有房子或汽车要供,一些甚至还有年迈的上一代要养。  一家邮轮公司的人力资源经理告诉我,上门应征者当中,她从这群人身上,感受到最强烈的“饥渴感”。  她说:“很多人已经找了几个月工了。一些甚至不介意拿比以前少一半的薪水,因为手停口停。就算有储蓄,几个月内也会坐吃山空。”  不过她承认,公司认为工作合不合适比愿意拿多低的薪水重要,因此尽管同情,也往往要向这些应征者说“对不起”。  她的观察应该错不了。很少新加坡人有真正足够的现金储蓄,一旦失业,没几个月就会陷入困境中。  其实也难怪受薪阶层。没多久以前,社会的大氛围就是这样:出国旅行每年总要一次,钱再多些,则打房子汽车的主意。还有很多人认为,他每个月缴交公积金,已经是储蓄了。  经济风球说变就变,也叫很多人措手不及。不是吗?在去年7月之前,有多少专家不是天天在唱“明天会更好”。  我也常听到这样的埋怨:“生活费太高了,真要储蓄,也不是容易的一件事。”  不管原因是什么,眼前的事实是社会上正出现许许多多焦虑的失业者,他们的背后,则多数有一个阴霾笼罩的家。  怎办呢?有人要“降级”,但卖汽车时发现没价钱也没买家。屋子的情况也一样。有人告诉我,以前新加坡人是“房地产富人,现金穷人”,现在两边都穷了。组屋有条例限制,也不是想卖就能卖的。  近日则有报道说,终止保单、孩子补习或女佣聘约的家庭多了起来。但不管怎样省,一日三餐总是要的。孩子的学费、水电、交通费、房子期款等等,也都得照付。  对这些“一家之主”伸出援手,相信没有人反对,现在的关键是选择怎样的帮助途径。  提供失业补助金的“恶果”,已经在许多国家有了前车之鉴。对这类福利制度,我们还是要坚决说“不”的。  结构性失业、训练和再训练的概念近来谈得很多,也实实在在进行着。不过要看到成绩还需要时间。对失去工作的人来说,银行存款快完了,进修不可能是优先要做的事。  上个星期职总宣布要带头成立贷款合作社,借钱给工友。这无疑是好消息。职总希望这类“小市民的银行”,能减少大耳窿的负面影响。  这个动机很好,警方的数字也证实了问题越来越严重。阴暗的路总好过走投无路,许多中下阶层人士就是在这种无奈中,走向大耳窿的。  不过贷款终究是贷款,条件不管多“宽厚”还是别人的钱。为什么不让失业者,用自己的钱自救呢?是的,我是指公积金存款。  过去,公积金有养老之用,是“神圣不可侵犯”的。但今天连投资都可以了,不能用它来解救存户的燃眉之急显得说不过去。从另一个角度看,储蓄如果是未雨绸缪,此刻这场暴风雨也够大的了。我们的经济情况,从没有如此严峻过。  网开一面的同时,当然也要确保这个过渡性安排不被滥用。这方面做法很多,例如限定只能支取最后薪金额(last drawn salary)的一个百分比,来应付学费、三餐等最基本的生活开销。有效期也可以设限,如最多支取半年或一年。  申请者也须是真正被裁的员工,而不是不想工作打算吃老本。当局还可以考虑申请者的家庭背景、规定年龄必须超过多少岁、须有一定的最低存款额等等。  此外,任职3年以上的员工,都享有遣散费,也就可以少领一点。以上种种,除了生活开销外,要核实并不困难。  日子艰难,允许存户提取一些钱来应急或许是时候了。当然,计划是过渡性质的,关键字眼是“救急”。因此将来情况好转,要求存户连利息一起“回缴”也不是不可能。  毕竟,这其实也是借钱。只是跟自己借心里踏实多了。起码不会有银行给脸色看,或担心大耳窿半夜来喷漆挂猪头。

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