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Redesign the pension scheme to ensure comfort in sunset years

Monday August 26 2019

Managing income and expenditure risks in old age is vital, especially when one retires.

As employees age, economic volatility increases as traditional support systems become weaker.

Formal pension programmes such as National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and cash transfers have so far been limited in their coverage with few incentives for employees to participate.

The programmes have also encountered administrative and governance difficulties, and in many cases have not been financially sustainable.

Some important reforms have been carried out to address these issues, but largely on universal coverage and strengthening of the governance framework. This includes the recent amendments on the NSSF Act and the adoption of the risk-based supervision by the Retirement Benefits Authority.

KEY CHANGES

Usually, the Retirement Benefits Scheme is supposed to cushion retirees and ensure that they have a minimum level of income during their old age.

This helps them to maintain consumption in old age at a similar level as during their working life.

It is clear that pensions can mitigate the negative impact of shocks on the elderly and their families.

The contribution rates by employers and employees therefore have critical bearing on members’ disposal income, the replacement rate at retirement and life expectancy.

Consequently, the NSSF Act No.45 of 2013 introduced several changes and repealed NSSF Act, Cap 258.

This was geared towards providing basic social security for members and dependents, introducing universal coverage to working populations and improving adequacy of benefits.

One of the key proposed changes was the increment of contribution rates from the current ceiling of contributions to a rate of 12 per cent (six per cent employer and six per cent employee).

SUSTAINABILITY

A recent survey revealed the average Income Replacement Rates (IRR) of pension schemes to be at 25 per cent compared to the global target rate of 70 per cent.

The determinants of the IRR include contribution rates and balance of risk return strategies, among others.

To achieve a sustainable IRR, organisations need to re-look at the adequacy and sustainability of the current benefits structure, align investment strategies and develop a communication plan to advise their employees on the importance of increased savings.

By doing so, they will reap big and enjoy their retirement in social and economic comfort.

Calvine Oredi, Nairobi