KUALA LUMPUR: Following the special withdrawal facilities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is now focused on assisting members to rebuild their savings for their retirement future.
The withdrawal facilities were exceptional in nature and were introduced considering the circumstances at the time where the pandemic severely impacted the local economy, the fund said.
These withdrawals, namely i-Lestari, i-Sinar and i-Citra, resulted in a total of RM101bil being disbursed to over 7.4 million members, which is close to half of all EPF members.
“While they provided some financial relief to members during the pandemic and various movement control orders, the withdrawals have inevitably led to 6.1 million members now having less than RM10,000 in their EPF accounts, of which 3.6 million have less than RM1,000, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected for their retirement,” it said in a statement.
The drop in savings is particularly worrying for bumiputra members, as they made up 78% or more than three quarters of the withdrawal applicants.
As a result, 4.4 million or 54% bumiputra members now have less than RM10,000, and two million or 25% have less than RM1,000.
The bottom 40% of EPF members (about five million members) saw their savings drop by 38% to just RM8bil, translating into a median savings balance of RM1,005.
The middle 40% also suffered a decline of 18% to RM155bil, or a median balance of RM24,995.
Only the top 20% of members aged below 55 saw an increase in savings but this translates to a median of RM152,043, or equivalent to just RM633 per month for 20 years.
“The three exceptional withdrawals have left 73% or nearly three quarters of members in a serious state of having inadequate funds to retire above the poverty line,” it said.
The EPF estimates that members will need to work between an extra four and six years to rebuild the savings that have been utilised during the pandemic, which has also led to a significant drop in the percentage of members meeting the basic savings threshold (RM240,000 at age 55) from 36% in 2020 to an estimated 27% by the end of this year.
Against this need to safeguard members’ future and rebuild their retirement funds, future exceptional withdrawals will need to be very carefully considered, it said.
With the measures put in place to support the recovery of the economy and spur employment, the fund hopes that this will go some way towards addressing the needs of the rakyat.
Meanwhile, Bernama quoted EPF chief strategy officer Nurhisham Hussein as saying that the Covid-19-related withdrawals resulted in many members below age 55 having critically low EPF savings.
“Even with Covid-19, 80% of Malaysian men and 90% of Malaysian women will reach age 60, while one out of three men and two out of three women will reach age 80.
“We now estimate that only 3% of Malaysians can afford to retire,” he said at the Perdana Fellow Alumni Association Speaker Series webinar.
Nurhisham was one of the panellists at the webinar, titled “Healthcare in Focus”.