On March 5, Vice Minister of Education Huang Pi-twan and Ma Jung-tsai from the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) personnel department went to Pingtung County in southern Taiwan to attend a forum on pension reform for teachers with active and retired teachers. The ministry stressed that reforms would be directed toward healthy finances, social fairness, intergenerational tolerance, pragmatism and stability. The teachers responded with criticism, saying that although the Civil Service Pension Fund had lost money due to stock market investments and might even go broke, no officials would step down to take responsibility. Still, they wanted civil servants to increase their contributions and receive less in return and at a later age. They could not resist criticizing the government for being inept, and the two parties failed to come to a common understanding.
Ma began by explaining the current system and the direction of the new system, stressing that they were visiting the various counties and cities to build a common understanding, adding that the ministry did not have last say, and that it would have to pass three legislative readings. He also said that due to the troubled national finances, the current 75 system (retirement available after 25 years of work and at the age of 50) for elementary and junior high schools would have to be changed to a 90 system (retirement available after 30 years of work and at the age of 60), which would mean that the retirement age would be delayed. However, understanding that the burden is heavier for kindergarten, elementary school and junior high school teachers than for senior high school, vocational school and university teachers, Ma said they would work toward an 85 system for these teachers. In terms of the preferential interest rate on pension savings, that would also drop, by 1 percent annually for four years, from the current 12 percent to 9 percent, where it would remain. Retired public school teachers that took up a teaching position at a private school would have to choose either monthly retirement payments or the salary at the new school.
When the active and retired teachers attending the forum were allowed to ask questions, Huang Fu-tien, head of Pingtung County Education Industry Union, took aim directly the stock market speculation with the Civil Service Pension Fund’s money saying that it was inappropriate, and that it might become bankrupt several years from now. Despite that, Huang said, officials and the fund manager were not held responsible, but instead teachers were forced to increase their contributions, receive less in return and retire at a later age.
Teachers from the county’s Siwei and Chonglan elementary schools said that the new system would punish and scare off new teachers. They expressed concerns that the basis for the ministry’s calculations was wrong. If elementary and junior high school teachers’ monthly retirement income replacement was as high as 95 percent, and commercial insurance offered high payments for high contributions, then why else would they have to pay more and get less under new system. The teachers felt that any unreasonable circumstances should be reformed, but there could not be any exploitation. They said that the government didn’t know what it was doing, and therefore was forced to cut the benefits for public school teachers.