Singapore Budget 2015: Return to workforce, family support important for non-working women: Tan Chuan-Jin

SINGAPORE - In response to calls for more aid for non-working women who may have low retirement savings, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said on Monday that the Government supports this group in two ways.

First, it encourages them to rejoin the workforce so they can build up their own nest eggs, he said in Parliament during his ministry's Committee of Supply debate.

This is done through schemes like WorkPro, which are meant to help companies retain older workers and mothers as employees through measures like flexible work arrangements and funding skills acquisition.

Mr Tan noted that more women are now participating in the labour force and that the difference in average CPF balances between men and women has started to narrow.

Second, the Government has also introduced more incentives for families to top up the Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts of stay-at-home wives and mothers, he added.

"Family remains an important pillar of support for women," Mr Tan said, drawing attention to recent changes that allow CPF members to transfer their savings to their spouses' accounts more easily.

In addition, from next year, those aged 55 and above can earn an extra 1 percentage point of interest for the first $30,000 in their combined CPF balances - a move that is aimed at encouraging CPF members to top up low balances in their family members' accounts.

But while Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) had suggested making such transfers automatic, he said "it would be intrusive for the Government to intervene."

"I urge all Singaporeans to consider how to maximise the CPF system to boost your family's retirement adequacy, and especially to look after your loved ones who may have lower CPF accounts because they took time off to look after your families," he later added.

Mr Tan also said social safety nets should remain, and be strengthened for vulnerable groups, but noted that "the Government and the CPF system alone will not be able to solve all problems. This is a collective responsibility."

He reiterated the four pillars that form the retirement support framework, which was raised by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shamuragatnam during the Budget statement last month. They were: the CPF, home ownership, affordable health care and Workfare, a wage supplement scheme introduced in 2007.