Women's CPF savings go up, narrowing gender gap

Over the past 10 years, women's average balance rose by 8.3 per cent a year against 7.7 per cent a year for men.
Over the past 10 years, women's average balance rose by 8.3 per cent a year against 7.7 per cent a year for men. PHOTO: ST FILE

It is a reassuring sign that women can better meet their retirement needs, say experts

Singapore women's nest egg for retirement is growing at a faster pace than men's, Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board figures show.

Experts attribute it to a shift towards women holding better-paying jobs and working longer these days, and the easing of rules to encourage more husbands to top up their wives' CPF savings.

Over the past 10 years, women's average balance rose by 8.3 per cent a year against 7.7 per cent a year for men. This refers to savings in their Ordinary, Special, Retirement and Medisave accounts.

As a result, the gap in average CPF balances between women and men narrowed from 16 per cent in 2006 to 11 per cent last year - a reassuring sign that, increasingly, women can better meet their retirement needs.

The trend could help women enjoy a higher standard of living in their senior years and lower the financial pressure on their children and the national budget, said National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist Tan Ern Ser.

He believes these children, being less likely to be part of the sandwiched generation that have to take care of both the old and young, would be inclined to have more children themselves.

The rise in women's balances is largely fuelled by job-related factors, such as higher wages and the growing proportion of working women, said NUS economist Chia Ngee Choon.

Sociologist Kang Soon-Hock of the Singapore University of Social Sciences said there are now more initiatives to encourage women to remain in or return to the workforce. Flexible work arrangements, for example, are more widespread.

Ms Mayda Jutahkiti, 43, an account director at Rice Communications, said she rejoined the workforce full time last month after four years as a stay-at-home mum.

"I was also a little worried about my retirement savings, given all the news about the rising cost of living," she added.

 

Also, more husbands are contributing to the CPF savings of their wives, a move encouraged by a change in the CPF transfer rule.

Last year, the minimum amount members must save before they could transfer excess savings to their spouses was halved.

In all, $110 million moved between spouses last year, double the previous year's amount. Almost 90 per cent of these transfers last year were from men to women, said the CPF Board.

Last week, the Manpower Ministry proposed changes to the CPF Act to lower the threshold for children to transfer funds to their parents and grandparents' accounts.

Cash top-ups to CPF accounts of family members also get tax relief.

Mr Wong Chee Yong, 41, a professional in the finance industry, said that in the past few years, he had put $14,000 in cash into his mother's account. She quit being a seamstress about 15 years ago.

"It is good for older folk to have more money for retirement. In the event that my sister and I lose our jobs, my mum can still have a source of income," he said. "Topping up her retirement savings is a way to thank her for her care."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Women's CPF savings go up, narrowing gender gap'. Print Edition | Subscribe