DISSENTING VOICES:Some participants called for a less drastic reduction in the income replacement rate of public servants, according to NTU sociology professor Fu Tsung-hsi
By Stacy Hsu / Staff reporter
Vice President Chen Chien-jen, center, makes his way to Academia Historica to attend a meeting after the opening of the national affairs conference on pension reform at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei yesterday.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
About 200 representatives from local industries and the political community yesterday attended a closely watched national affairs conference on pension reform.
The conference, held at the Presidential Office Building, was the culmination of the government’s efforts to solicit opinions from all walks of life on pension reform, which has included 20 preparatory committee meetings and four regional forums over the past six months.
The conference was attended by 192 people, including representatives from various industries, lawmakers and political leaders.
Attendees were divided into three groups: group one focused on pension payments and eligibility; group two discussed issues related to the management and sources of pension funds; and group three concentrated on pension system structures, special insured status and the transferability of working years across sectors.
Group one attracted the most attention, with 75 people, followed by group three with 67 attendees. Group two had 46 participants.
After the groups met, three academics were invited to deliver a summary report of the groups’ opinions: Fu Tsung-hsi (傅從喜), a sociology professor at National Taiwan University; Frances Shao (邵靄如), a professor in Ming Chuan University’s Department of Risk Management and Insurance; and Taiwan Research Institute deputy dean Annie Lee (李安妮).
Listing several points mentioned in group one, Fu said some participants called for a less drastic reduction in the income replacement rate of public servants, which, according to the government’s draft plan, is to be gradually reduced to “60 percent of two times” a civil employee’s basic salary.
As for the period over which salary averages are calculated, participants were divided between a shorter timeframe of five or 10 years and the government’s proposed version of 15 years, Fu said.
The controversial 18 percent preferential interest rate on civil servants’ savings was also a contentious topic in group one. Some people said that the rate should be reduced, but not to zero, while others said it should be phased out within three years, rather than the proposed six years.
Most participants chose NT$32,160 over NT$25,000 as the floor for public servants’ pension payment, with attendees also calling for a floor to private-sector workers’ monthly pension payments, ranging from NT$11,000 to NT$19,000, Fu said.
Group two participants urged for a more open and diversified approach to manage pension funds, the establishment of a special pension fund management organization and a higher amount of annual state funding, Shao said.
There were also suggestions that a separate pension fund be created for the younger generations, Shao added.
Group three participants generally supported the government’s plan to carry out pension reform in two stages, but believed efforts should be made in the first stage to unify the main aspects of different pension funds, such as pension eligibility and retirement age, Lee said.
“Other opinions included conducting assessments of the nation’s pension systems every five to 10 years, setting up a permanent pension reform organization and drawing up a ‘pension standard act,’” Lee said.
Calls for the protection of the rights of women who are only covered by the National Pension after quitting their jobs for family reasons, as well as a special pension scheme for foreign affairs personnel — due to the nature of the profession — were also heard, Lee added.
Group three also saw brief heated exchanges between representatives of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), when DPP spokesman Chang Chih-hao (張志豪) blasted previous KMT administrations for failing to reform the pension system.
Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億), the deputy convener and executive director of the Presidential Office’s pension reform committee, told a post-meeting news conference that participants who did not fully express their opinions at the conference were welcome to send follow-up information to the committee.
“All the opinions voiced at the three groups will be organized and considered when the government draws up an act or amendment. Given their great variety, we will include those we think can be implemented immediately and save those that cannot to future discussions,” Lin said.
The committee hopes to send a draft bill to lawmakers no later than May 20, adding that an impact assessment report would be published later, Lin said.