Sun, Sep 18, 2016 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Pension reform testing human nature

“Give more, take less and take later,” was the consensus members of the Presidential Office’s Pension Reform Committee said had been reached during the committee’s meetings almost two months ago. So why, after 12 committee meetings, has it not put forward a bill for pension reform?

After more than 100,000 military personnel, teachers and civil servants took to the streets of Taipei to protest the “stigmatization” that they said had been perpetrated against them and to demand that their dignity be restored, many editorials focusing on the opinions of these three groups have been penned, but little has been said about the pensions received by workers under the labor pension system.

Irrational remarks have been made by both sides, but one theme pervades almost all comments made to justify the size of pensions received by civil servants, public-school teachers and military personnel: Any measure devised by the government to push pension reform must be implemented according to legitimate expectations, to protect the public’s interests from being undermined when authorities move to rescind a promised benefit.

This rhetoric, championed by the likes of committee member Harry Lee (李來希), president of the National Civil Servants Association, has drawn widespread criticism from ordinary workers due to estimates of the nation’s unfunded actuarial accrued liability associated with civil servants’ pensions, which range from NT$8 trillion to NT$18 trillion (US$252.5 billion to US$568 billion).

While some people who take issue with pension reform have argued that the numbers have been overblown, there is a general consensus that the nation’s finances are in potential danger, and even committee members representing civil servants would be hard-pressed to say that reform is unnecessary.

Another common defense of civil servants’ entitlement to more generous pensions is that they are required to contribute more than ordinary workers in premiums under the civil servants’ insurance system.

However, this is a fallacy, as both civil servants and ordinary workers, their employers and the government together pay the equivalent of 9 percent of their monthly salaries to support the insurance systems, with both groups required to shoulder 35 percent of the sum.

From a broader perspective, pension reform is not just a financial issue, but also a pursuit of justice, given the huge discrepancies in pensions received by civil servants and ordinary workers.

Before retirement, every employed person is considered part of society’s productive workforce, regardless of their profession. Similarly, everyone should receive equal treatment in retirement.

The nation pays civil servants more generously than workers in the private sector before they retire so that they can focus on their work and not worry too much about making ends meet, even though not all civil servants’ jobs are considered “productive” for society.

This explains why many workers find it unacceptable that there is such a large discrepancy in the pensions they receive and those received by civil servants.

With private-school teachers and workers calling for the ceilings of civil pensions to be lowered and that the bottom limit of their own pensions be raised, President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration will have to do more than save the nation from bankruptcy.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top