Malaysian workers want to keep their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution rate intact at 11% despite the option to reduce it by 3% for two years, a move Putrajaya announced this week under its recalibrated budget for 2016.
Those interviewed said they were more concerned with having enough money for their retirement compared with getting a little extra at the end of the month.
They told The Malaysian Insider that whatever income they got from cutting their contribution rate to 8% would not significantly impact their expenses, unless they had very high salaries to begin with.
Some also said it would have been better if the government had reduced the 6% goods and services tax (GST) rate instead of tweaking the EPF contribution rate. Christopher Raj, who runs a public relations firm, said none of his employees had chosen to reduce their monthly EPF contributions.
"We asked all our employees whether they wanted the reduction and all of them said they did not.
"This is because if you calculate it, the 3% does not mean that. They also do not want to jeopardise their savings for such a small amount," said Raj, who is the company’s chief executive officer (CEO).
Echoing the sentiment, Anita Daud, a manager at a private company, said she would maintain the same monthly contribution rate. "I treasure my EPF savings as they are for my future. At that time, no one will be able to help us except for our savings," she said.
The same went for oil and gas sector employee Mohd Noor Aidilfitri Mohamed, who said he would maintain his original 11% contribution. "I’ll only be getting an extra RM80 a month, so it does not really help me that much. I don’t agree with the reduction."
Administrative assistant Sharifah Azlin Zaiza Syed Mohd Zaki said Putrajaya would have done better to reduce the GST rate. "Instead of reducing EPF contributions, it would be better to reduce the GST to 3%. Government should also be more strict in enforcing price controls on necessities and utilities."
As part of its revised Budget 2016 announced on January 28, Putrajaya said 8% of salaries would be deducted for EPF contributions instead of 11%. This will take effect until December 2017.
Employer contributions, however, will be maintained at a minimum 12%.
Ministers said the move was to put more money in the hands of people at the end of the month so as to boost private consumption at a time when the economy was slowing. EPF in a statement yesterday said the cuts, which would be automatic, would start in March. Workers, however, can voluntarily opt out of the scheme and maintain the original 11% rate by submitting a form to EPF.
One person interviewed said he welcomed the option to either continue building retirement savings at the 11% rate or have some extra help for monthly expenses or debts.
But SK, as he only wanted to be known, said it was equally important for Malaysians to think of their old age. "If we give 8% to EPF then it means we will have less money for retirement," he said. "And the extra money will be wasted if people just use it to go on vacation or to splurge during the holidays." Project consultant Noel Jeremiah Daniel and Mohd Aswadi A’sad said they were okay with the contributions being reduced. "I will opt for the 3% reduction but I would use the extra money to invest in something else to increase my income," said Noel.
Mohd Aswadi said he would use the extra cash for monthly expenses. "But to me the reduction only really helps if you have a high enough basic salary to begin with.