By CHULARAT SAENGPASSA
WITH MORE than 70 per cent of stakeholders at public forums and online polls backing a proposal to extend the eligible age to collect old-age pensions from 55 to 60, Social Security Office (SSO) chief Suradech Waleeitthikul has promised to take the matter to the SSO board for consideration.
The SSO, under the Labour Ministry, held public forums on the matter in Nonthaburi, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Krabi, Songkhla, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Rayong, Phetchaburi and Bangkok during September through November 2017.
The forums were attended by 11,885 people, including people insured under the SSO Act’s Section 33 (normal workers), those insured under Section 39 (people who have resigned from work but continue to pay SSO contributions voluntarily), employers and business representatives and officials. The SSO online opinion poll on the matter received 10,178 responses.
Most forum attendees backed the age extension, as it would give more time for insured people to save, Suradech said. He said 48.42 per cent of people had agreed that the age extension should be done now, while another 42.87 per cent said it should be implemented in the next 10 years.
But 82.74 per cent also noted that the age extension should be implemented on a voluntary basis, he said. Those backing the idea were also asked to choose their preferred option on how it should be implemented.
The most popular option, with 37.37 per cent of the vote, was that insured people should be given a choice to take a part of their total pension in a lump sum and then collect the rest as a slightly lower monthly pension starting at the age of 60.
The second-most popular option (36.72 per cent) was that the insured person should be allowed to take part of their pension if they are deemed unable to work, then collect the rest as a slightly lower monthly pension starting at the age of 60.
The third (25.91 per cent) was that the age extension should be obligatory for newly insured people, but those who have paid contributions for many years should be given a choice to take a part of their pension and collect the rest as a slightly lower monthly pension from 60.
Suradech said most people also agreed that the pension should be calculated on average pay earned throughout the insured person’s entire working life. The current calculation is based on a person’s average earnings in the 60 months prior to retirement. A change would allow people insured under Section 33 and 39 to receive more money.
Most people were also willing to pay a portion of their monthly pension as a premium to keep their healthcare benefits valid after retirement, he said.
Suradech said he would soon propose the forum and poll results to the SSO board, which would decide which method would be appropriate to maximise the insured persons’ benefits. He would also propose a rise in employees’ contributions, so that those earning more than Bt20,000 in salary would pay a monthly contribution of Bt1,000 to the Social Security Fund, while those earning Bt15,000 to Bt20,000 would pay Bt800 and those earning under Bt15,000 would pay Bt750. Currently, everyone pays a flat rate of Bt750.
About 31 per cent of SSO-insured persons earn over Bt15,000 and, of these, only 15 per cent earn over Bt20,000, Suradech said. General workers would not be much affected although employers might, as they would have to pay contributions at a higher rate to meet their employees accordingly, he added.
Suradech said he had not set a date to submit the proposals yet, as the SSO would listen to all opinions on matters that are debatable. Also, the process of selecting new board members to replace the previous panel whose term ended in November is ongoing, he said. The old SSO board members are now in acting positions, but they are still authorised to approve matters.
Suradech noted that some labour leaders were against the proposals, but he was not sure if that had anything to so with the upcoming selection of a new SSO board.