2015

Global Aging Institute and Prudential survey shows strong support for retirement reform across East Asia

“From Challenge to Opportunity” calls on governments and businesses to close the growing gap in financial security for current and future retirees

Singapore, 14 September 2015 – The Global Aging Institute (GAI), in partnership with Prudential Corporation Asia, today unveiled its findings from a major study on retirement attitudes and expectations in East Asia. From Challenge to Opportunity: Wave 2 of the East Asia Retirement Survey found that citizens almost everywhere in East Asia are highly concerned about their retirement security. While they are eager to improve their retirement preparedness, and have taken steps to do so, they also believe that governments and the financial services industry could do more to help close the existing gap.

As the number of elderly in Singapore is projected to double from 17 to 33 per cent over the next twenty-five years, the rapid ageing of the population will pose challenges to ensuring retirement security. While a larger number of today’s Singaporean workers expect to receive benefits from the Central Provident Fund than is the case of today’s retirees, the benefits that most of them receive will be quite modest. The findings of the study also show that most Singaporeans seem to favour individual or government responsibility for retirement income over family responsibility, meaning that today’s workers may not be able to fall back on their grown children to the extent that today’s retirees can. While the retirement prospects for today’s workers are improving, they remain uncertain.

 

The family is not expected to be the main financial source of support in retirement

The survey reveals that an overwhelming majority of respondents in every market reject the traditional expectation that the family should be primarily responsible for providing for the elderly. However, different markets have different views about who should take the place of the family in guaranteeing retirement security. In South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a majority or plurality of respondents (between 40 and 61 per cent) feel that retirees themselves should be responsible for their own retirement income. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and Thailand, a majority or plurality of respondents (between 43 and 66 per cent) feel that government should assume the primary role in retirement security.

Although the family’s role in retirement security has diminished over the years, most respondents want to see it shrink even further. However, a lack of viable alternatives to close the retirement security gap is cause for concern. Dr. Richard Jackson, founder and president of GAI, said: “The findings show that retirees in East Asia find themselves at a difficult juncture. Traditional family support networks have been weakening, yet adequate government and market substitutes have not yet been put in place. The result is growing economic vulnerability. The retirement outlook for today’s workers is brighter in most markets, but still highly uncertain. Across East Asia, workers are very anxious about their retirement prospects, but are also very eager to improve them.”

 

Today’s workers are anxious about their retirement prospects

Today’s working-age adults, who are more affluent, educated and market-oriented than their parents, are likely to arrive in retirement better prepared than today’s retirees. Yet most worry a great deal about their future retirement security, and with good reason. Although coverage under state pension systems is rising in most markets, benefits are likely to replace only a small share of pre-retirement income. Meanwhile, most workers do not have sufficient personal savings to maintain pre-retirement living standards. In all 10 markets, the share of workers who worry about being in need of money when they are retired, ranging from 50 per cent in China to 95 per cent in Vietnam, is as large, or larger, than the share of retirees who worry about the same thing. In Singapore, 28 per cent of today’s workers expect to have “a lot less income” in retirement than they do today, more than anywhere else surveyed except Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.

 

Broad support for reforms to boost retirement savings

The good news is that there is a remarkable willingness among East Asians to support retirement reform, even when it will involve personal sacrifice. In every market, an enormous majority of respondents, ranging from 77 per cent in China to 89 per cent in Singapore to 90 per cent in Hong Kong, Indonesia, and the Philippines, agree that the government should require workers to save more for their own retirement. In most markets, a majority of respondents also agree that the government should raise the retirement age, increase taxes to offer a basic pension benefit to those elderly who are in financial need, and require workers to contribute more to pay for government pension programmes.

 

Role of financial services is growing in retirement planning

Attitudes towards the financial services industry vary across the 10 markets, but in most of them the survey reveals that the level of trust in the industry is high, with more respondents agreeing than disagreeing that “people can trust financial services companies to help them prepare for retirement.” The likelihood that workers will seek professional financial advice about how to invest their retirement savings is highly correlated with their level of income and educational attainment. Nevertheless, the vast majority of workers who have received professional financial advice, ranging from 54 per cent in Singapore to 96 per cent in Indonesia, said that they found it useful.

The high degree of market-orientation of Singaporeans is evident in their support for individual responsibility for retirement income. Singaporeans also tend to have favourable attitudes toward the financial services industry and financial services companies. When respondents were asked whether “people can trust financial services companies to help them prepare for retirement,” 42 per cent agreed or strongly agreed while just 29 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed. These findings are a contrast to those of equally market-oriented Hong Kong, where 50 per cent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed and just 16 per cent agreed or strongly agreed.

In every market, the share of today’s workers who expect to receive income in retirement from insurance and annuity products and/or stocks, bonds or mutual funds is rising. In Singapore, 74 per cent of today’s workers expect to receive income from these financial assets when they retire. In China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, the percentage of workers with the same expectation ranges between 60 and 80 per cent. At the low end of the spectrum are the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where less than 25 per cent of today’s workers expect to receive income from insurance or annuity products and/or stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.

 

EIGHT STRATEGIC STEPS TO CLOSE RETIREMENT GAP

The enormous challenge facing East Asia’s aging populations also presents an enormous opportunity to build more adequate and sustainable retirement systems. There is a critical role for both governments and financial services to play. The survey suggests eight strategic steps for policymakers and financial services to take:

Implications for government policymakers

  • Improve the adequacy of state pension systems: - extend their reach so they cover a broader cross section of the workforce and increase contribution rates so that they deliver more adequate benefits.
  • Encourage or require workers to save more for their own retirement: - as they improve the adequacy of state pension systems, policymakers also need to increase supplemental retirement savings.
  • Establish more robust floors of old-age poverty protection: - governments must put in place adequate non-contributory old-age safety nets, or what are sometimes called “social pensions.”
  • Raise retirement ages and encourage longer work lives: - governments should gradually phase out the early mandatory retirement ages that are enforced in formal sectors of many East Asian countries.

Implications for financial services providers

  • Educate the public about the critical role of the financial services industry in retirement savings: - much public education is needed if savings are to play a greater role in retirement security.
  • Help today’s workers turn their retirement savings aspirations into retirement realities: - the financial services industry can help bridge the disconnect between retirement savings aspirations and retirement savings realities.
  • Design and market financial products and services for workers who want to assume responsibility for their own retirement security: - as incomes and educational attainment rise, a growing share of the workforce will be increasingly eager for sophisticated financial advice and products.
  • Satisfy the widespread public demand for financial products that convert household savings and lump-sum pension payments into retirement income streams: - filling the demand for annuities and annuity-like products is another critical step the financial services industry can take to help improve future retirement security.

Donald Kanak, Chairman of Prudential Corporation Asia, said, “Rapid aging in Asia is an irreversible trend and poses many challenges for today’s societies. Closing the growing gap in old-age protection requires public and private sector solutions. The insurance and asset management sectors can play a critical role that relieves pressure on government budgets as societies age. For over 90 years, Prudential has been committed to helping individuals and their families protect their long-term financial future, and realise their retirement goals."

Tomas Urbanec, Chief Executive Officer of Prudential Singapore said, “The report is an insightful look into the retirement realities of East Asia. As one of the fastest ageing populations in this region, Singaporeans are faced with many challenges in fulfilling their retirement goals. However, being market-oriented, the society here recognises that finance and insurance companies can play an important role in helping individuals and their families attain a secure financial future. Prudential Singapore has been providing for the financial and protection needs of Singaporeans for the past 84 years and we will continue to develop solutions to help them achieve their retirement goals.”

 

For media enquiries, please contact:

Lorraine Lee Robert; Elizabeth Wong
Prudential Assurance Company Singapore
Tel: +65 6704 7033; +65 6704 7039
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]

Doreen Siow
Catherine Ong Associates
Tel: +65 6327 6084
Email: [email protected]

 

NOTE TO EDITORS

From Challenge to Opportunity presents the findings of a survey that was designed by GAI and conducted by Ipsos, a global research firm. More than 10,000 (10,019) respondents from 10 markets – China, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam – took part. The respondents were household main earners aged 20 or older, including both current and retired main earners. Telephone interviews conducted in China, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, while face-to-face interviews were conducted in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

 

About the East Asia Retirement Survey

The East Asia Retirement Survey is part of the multiyear Global Aging Preparedness Project, which was launched in 2010 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with the publication of The Global Aging Preparedness Index, a unique new tool for assessing the fiscal sustainability and income adequacy of retirement systems around the world. When project director Richard Jackson left CSIS early in 2014 to found the Global Aging Institute (GAI), the project moved with him and since then has continued under the auspices of GAI. Prudential plc has been collaborating with Richard Jackson on the project since 2010 and continues to support the ongoing work on the project being carried out by GAI.

The East Asia Retirement Survey is now in its second wave. The first wave of the survey, which was conducted in the summer of 2011, was administered to workers and retirees in China, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. The second wave of the survey, which was conducted in the summer of 2014, was administered to workers and retirees in the six first-wave countries plus Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. All of the survey samples were nationally representative, except that in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam they were limited to urban areas.

The results of the first wave of the survey were published in Balancing Tradition and Modernity: The Future of Retirement in East Asia (Washington, DC: CSIS, 2012). In addition to From Challenge to Opportunity, report, the results of the second wave are also presented in a series of ten shorter country reports. All of the reports, together with supplemental data, are available on dedicated project websites at gap.globalaginginstitute.org and www.prudentialcorporation-asia.com/eastasia-retirement-2015/.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Richard Jackson is the founder and president of the Global Aging Institute (GAI), a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to improving understanding of the economic, social, and geopolitical challenges created by demographic change, and especially population aging, in the United States and around the world. He is also a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a senior advisor to the Concord Coalition. Richard is the author or co-author of numerous policy studies, including Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate (2014); The Global Aging Preparedness Index, Second Edition (2013); Balancing Tradition and Modernity: The Future of Retirement in East Asia (2012); Global Aging and the Future of Emerging Markets (2011); and The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century (2008). Richard regularly speaks on demographic issues and is widely quoted in the media. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University and lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife Perrine and their three children, Benjamin, Brian, and Penelope.

Tobias Peter is a research associate at the Global Aging Institute. Prior to beginning his graduate studies, he worked with Richard Jackson on global aging issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he was successively an intern, research assistant, and programme coordinator. Tobias is the co-author of several policy studies, including U.S. Development Policy in an Aging World: New Challenges and New Priorities for a New Demographic Era (2013) The Global Aging Preparedness Index, Second Edition (2013); and Balancing Tradition and Modernity: The Future of Retirement in East Asia (2012). He holds a B.A. in history and applied economics from the College of St. Scholastica and a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

 

ABOUT THE GLOBAL AGING INSTITUTE

The Global Aging Institute (GAI) is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to improving our understanding of global aging, to informing policymakers and the public about the challenges it poses, and to encouraging timely and constructive policy responses. GAI’s agenda is broad, encompassing everything from retirement security to national security, and its horizons are global, extending to aging societies worldwide.

GAI was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. Although GAI is new, its mission is not. Before launching the institute, Richard Jackson, GAI’s president, directed a research program on global aging at the Center for Strategic and International Studies which, over a span of nearly fifteen years, produced a large body of cutting-edge research and analysis that played a leading role in shaping the debate over what promises to be one of the defining challenges of the twenty-first century. GAI’s Board of Directors is chaired by Thomas S. Terry, CEO of the Terry Group and immediate past president of the American Academy of Actuaries. To learn more about the Global Aging Institute, visit www.GlobalAgingInstitute.org.

 

ABOUT PRUDENTIAL CORPORATION ASIA

Prudential Corporation Asia is a business unit of Prudential plc (United Kingdom)*, comprising its life insurance operations in Asia, and its asset management business, Eastspring Investments. It is headquartered in Hong Kong.

Prudential is a leading life insurer that spans 12 markets in Asia, covering Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Prudential has a robust multi-channel distribution platform providing a comprehensive range of savings, investment and protection products to meet the diverse needs of Asian people.

Eastspring Investments manages investments across Asia on behalf of a wide range of retail and institutional investors, with about half of its assets sourced from life and pension products sold by Prudential plc. It is one of the region’s largest asset managers with operations in 10 markets plus offices in North America, the UAE, the UK and Luxembourg. It has £85.3 billion in assets under management (as at 30 June 2015), managing funds across a range of asset classes including equities and fixed income.

*Prudential plc is incorporated in England and Wales, and its affiliated companies constitute one of the world's leading financial services groups. It provides insurance and financial services through its subsidiaries and affiliates throughout the world. It has been in existence for 166 years and has £505 billion in assets under management (as at 30 June 2015). Prudential plc is not affiliated in any manner with Prudential Financial, Inc., a company whose principal place of business is in the United States of America.

Prudential plc is listed on the stock exchanges of London (PRU.L), Hong Kong (2378.HK), Singapore (K6S.SG) and New York (PUK.N)

 

ABOUT PRUDENTIAL SINGAPORE

Prudential Singapore, an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based Prudential plc, is one of the top life insurance companies in Singapore. We have been serving the financial and protection needs of Singaporeans for 84 years. Our focus is to bring well-rounded financial solutions to customers through our multi-channel distribution network, with product offerings in Protection, Savings and Investment. We are one of the market leaders in Protection, Savings and Investment-linked plans with S$28.7 billion funds under management as at 30 June 2015. In 2014, we were awarded an AA Financial Strength Rating by leading credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

For the last 11 consecutive years, we have been awarded the Gold Award in Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands. Since 2007, we have been conferred the People Developer Award by SPRING Singapore for our efforts in training and developing employees and in 2013 and 2014, we were presented with Asia’s Employer of the Year Brand Award by the Branding Institute and the World HRD Congress. Prudential Singapore was also awarded the NTUC Plaque of Commendation (Gold) Award in 2014, and the Singapore Human Resource Institute presented the company with the Leading HR Practices in Quality Work-Life, Physical & Mental Well-Being Award in 2014 and the Leading HR Practices in Lifelong Learning Award in 2015.