Budget 2019 debate

Bicentennial CPF top-up a tribute to women, says Josephine Teo


The Bicentennial Bonus CPF top-up is a "tribute" to women who stayed home to care for their families while others went out to work, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday.

"It recognises that they had fewer years to build up their retirement savings," she pointed out in a speech that honoured women who contributed to Singapore's development.

"We don't usually apply the gender lens when debating our Budget, but when we do, it is clear that every Budget benefits women in significant ways. And they all add up to a lot of support," she added.

Last week, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 this year with less than $60,000 of retirement savings in their Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts will receive a top-up of up to $1,000.

About 300,000 Singaporeans will gain from the top-up, six in 10 of whom are women in their 50s and 60s. Mrs Teo said the money will go some way in supporting these women in their old age.

"Even today, when women have more choices, many dedicate their lives to their families by staying home to personally take care of their needs," said Mrs Teo. "We don't say it often enough, but their sacrifices did not just make a difference to their families - they also made a difference to our nation-building."

Ms Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC) and Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) also highlighted the contributions of women to Singapore.

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Ms Rahayu said there are many women activists and volunteers who have "defied traditional expectations and made great strides to change society's pre-conceived notions and habits".

But she noted that there is still much to do in Singapore when it comes to issues such as closing the wage gap between men and women, or supporting women who return to the workforce after having children.

"While women here have access to education and jobs, and we have representation of women in many key positions in leadership, there is still much that we can do," said Ms Rahayu.

Ms Lee reiterated Mrs Teo's point on how the CPF top-ups will help this group achieve retirement adequacy, and urged families to top up their mothers' and wives' accounts.

"You will get a tax relief of up to $7,000 for doing this. But more importantly, it is to show her how much you appreciate her sacrifices," Ms Lee said.

Mrs Teo noted that many government schemes targeted at the elderly benefit women more since their life expectancies are longer.

These include the Pioneer Generation Package and the Silver Support Scheme for needy seniors. More than 65 per cent of those who receive Silver Support payouts are women, she said.

In her speech, Mrs Teo also held up women who contributed to Singapore throughout its long history.

They include Hajjah Fatimah, who arrived in Singapore in the 1800s and built houses and a mosque, as well as fungi expert Gloria Lim, who was the first woman to be appointed dean of the science faculty of the then University of Singapore, the predecessor of the National University of Singapore.

"Our women pioneers set solid foundations for the generations after them so that we can all advance and progress in society," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2019, with the headline Bicentennial CPF top-up a tribute to women, says Josephine Teo. Subscribe