Taiwan to push ahead with pension reforms

More than 100,000 people took to Taipei's streets to protest over planned reforms to the island's struggling pension system on Sept 3.
More than 100,000 people took to Taipei's streets to protest over planned reforms to the island's struggling pension system on Sept 3.PHOTO: AFP

Faced with rising anger among public service pensioners, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen remains undeterred, vowing to push ahead with overhauling the national pension system that will likely trim public servants' generous pension payments.

Defending her decision to carry on with pension reforms, Ms Tsai said yesterday she was doing this for the next generation and that she would bear any pressure or backlash caused by the reforms.

Her comments at a youth forum come a day after some 150,000 retired military men, civil servants and teachers marched in the streets of Taipei to demand that the government stop targeting their pensions in the proposed reforms.

Referring to Saturday's protest, the biggest since she took office in May, Ms Tsai said: "Reforms will not please everyone and this is not easy, but for the (benefit) of our next generation, we need to stick to it."

Appealing to protesters, she added: "If everyone is more considerate towards others, society will be more united.

"This generation's sacrifices will give subsequent generations of Taiwanese a sense of security."

Retired military personnel, teachers and civil servants in Taiwan currently draw pensions that can be nearly four times the starting salaries of many university graduates.

But with a rapidly ageing population and a slowing economy, many analysts say Taiwan can ill afford the pension schemes.

Indeed, the pension fund for teachers, civil servants and military personnel is reported to have been in deficit since last year.

Unhappy that their payouts are the target of the reforms, the pensioners decided to take their frustrations to the streets.

This came amid ongoing efforts by a 37-member pension reform committee appointed by Ms Tsai to work on proposals that are scheduled to be submitted by next May.

Ms Tsai yesterday appealed to protesters to discuss with the government feasible reform proposals during the committee's weekly meetings.

The panel includes representatives from the military and the civil service.

But her comments cut no ice with many of the protesters, who threatened to stage another protest next month if their demands are not met.

Retired Lieutenant-General Wu Sze-huai, 64, who left the army in 2011, said: "We want the government to know that we have the support of hundreds of thousands of people.

"We won't back down and will continue fighting for our rights and not be taken for granted."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan to push ahead with pension reforms'. Print Edition | Subscribe