Something very wrong happened.
The CPF Board had released their annual report for 2012.
In 2011 and prior to 2012, the CPF Board had always included a table of the Active CPF members by monthly wage level.
In the 2011 annual report (Table 1), it was stated that there were about 300,000 Singaporeans earning less than $1,000 and about 460,000 Singaporeans earning less than $1,500. This made up 17% and 26%, or a quarter of Singaporeans, respectively.
Table 1: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Monthly Wage Level and Age Group as at 31 December 2011
But in the 2012 annual report, the CPF Board removed this table.
and replaced it with another table The last table in the report was on the distribution of active CPF members by regrossed balances (Table 2), which they state, “include amounts withdrawn under Investment, education, Residential Properties, Non-Residential Properties and Public Housing Schemes as at end of period.”
Table 2: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Regrossed Balances and Age Group as at 31 December 2012
Where did the table on the distribution of monthly wage go??
Why did the CPF Board removed the table on Singaporeans’ monthly wage levels? Did they not want to show the information of how a quarter of Singaporeans are earning less than $1,500, and possibly living in poverty? Why does the CPF Board no longer want to show this information?
Now, take a look at Table 1 and Table 2. If you do not know that there is a difference in the indicator being reported, which table looks better?
Table 2, right? It looks like there are many Singaporeans who have a lot of money!
Let me share with you some insights:
- In Table 1, look at the first column. You can see that the monthly wage level is broken down into the smallest categories, down to the hundreds in the first few rows. Why? Look at Table 3 for a re-representation, and you will understand why. Can you see straightaway (without the distracting breakdown) that there are 300,000 Singaporeans earning less than $1,000 and more than 600,000 earning less than $2,000 – which means that nearly a fifth of Singaporeans have to live on less than $1,000 every month and nearly 40% of Singaporeans earn less than $2,000! They had to break the wage levels into smaller categories so that it wouldn’t look so obvious that there are so many poor people in Singapore.
- In 2012, they stopped reporting on the monthly wage level completely. Meanwhile, they replaced continued to display the table on “regrossed balances”. Looks nice, doesn’t it? Not really. Let me explain to you why.
Table 3: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Monthly Wage Level and Age Group as at 31 December 2011
As of 1 July 2013, Singaporeans have to set aside a minimum sum of $148,000 in their CPF before they are able to withdraw it.
So, looking at Table 2, can you see that this mean that there are more than a million Singaporeans who are not able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum? If you cannot, it’s because the table hasn’t been presented clearly, whether intended or not.
There are actually 1,003,614 Singaporeans with balances of up to $150,000, which makes up 56%. Does this mean that about 55% Singaporeans do not have enough in their CPF and will not be able to retrieve their own money?
Then why did the CPF Board portray the table in this manner? If I were the CPF Board, I would portray the table like in Table 4.
Table 4: Distribution of Active CPF Members by Regrossed Balances and Age Group as at 31 December 2012
And then, you will be able to see very clearly that only about 45% of Singaporeans are able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum. About 55% will not be able to withdraw their CPF – that’s your money.
So, why did the CPF Board remove the table which gives the breakdown on Singaporeans’ wage level? Why did the CPF Board
replace it with a new table but represent also continue to present a table that looks misleading? Why did the CPF Board not state the truth as clearly as it can?
Look at Chart 1 below – up until 2010, less than 50% of Singaporeans were able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum, and in 2012, there continues to be a majority of Singaporeans who would not be able to withdraw their CPF monies.
If so, where is our money going? Why can’t we take the money that we’ve earned back? Where is the government taking it to, and for? Why is the money that is ours being denied from us? Why can we not access the nearly $150,000, which is our own money??
I looked at the 2011 report again and realised that the chart on “regrossed balances” have always been in the annual reports.
So, what really happened was that the chart on the monthly wage level was completely removed and not replaced at all. The question remains then – why has this information been removed? Why have Singaporeans been denied this very important information? 17% of Singaporeans earned less than $1,000. A quarter earned less than $1,500 and almost 40% earned less than $2,000.
Previous studies have shown that Singaporeans earn the lowest wages among developed countries and we have the lowest purchasing power as well. Singaporeans also have the smallest retirement funds, which is even smaller than developing countries in the region!
This is no laughing matter. Singaporeans are not earning enough. Instead of fixing the problem, why has the government chosen to omit this information? Instead of helping Singaporeans live better lives, why are we made to pretend the problem doesn’t exist?
On top of that, the fact of the matter continues to be that more than half of Singaporeans are not able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum and are not able to withdraw their CPF. Isn’t the CPF meant for our retirement? If it’s locked up and we cannot access it, then what do we retire on? Or, more importantly, can we even retire?
If we can’t, what’s the point of working for a government which doesn’t even take care of our well-being?
A commenter pointed out that we should be looking at the age group of those above 60 to see how many older Singaporeans there are who aren’t able to meet their CPF Minimum Sum. I did exactly that and found out that only 32% of older Singaporeans had CPF balances of more than $150,000.
This means that there would be up to 68% of older Singaporeans who would not be able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum and wouldn’t be able to take their CPF out at all!
Of these 68% of older Singaporeans who aren’t able to take their CPF monies out, how many of whom don’t even have savings because they have been earning low pay? A report in 2005 showed that 62% of older Singaporeans work because they need the money. Are there 62% older Singaporeans who simply cannot retire? Also, among the low-wage workers, a high proportion of them are the elderly.
If our older Singaporeans have been paid low wages for a long time and if they do not have enough savings because of their low wages, and they are also not able to take their CPF monies out, what can they do? They are forced to work.
And if the government isn’t helping them enough, what is the government doing? This is appalling. For a country which is the richest in the world, with the highest GDP per capita and GIC and the Temasek Holdings, which are ranked the 8th and 10th sovereign wealth funds in the world, is this acceptable? Is this right? Is this honourable? Is the government filial?