Sunday, June 16, 2019

Oledan: Layers of Disconnect

WITH the promise of a comfortable retirement and the invitation for members to “work hard to save more,” the Social Security System (SSS) announced that it would increase contribution rates from 11 percent to 12 percent starting April 1.

The move will also enable laid-off workers to claim unemployment benefits under the amended charter of SSS. The increase is expected to “generate an additional P31 billion for the pension fund, including 13 more years to its fund life up until 2045.”

Sounds good, at first glance.

But imagine those among us who can barely make both ends meet. Think of the construction workers or those in the service sector whose monthly pay could not even provide them with the means for a decent life. Consider the several instances where employees have to grope in the dark over their unremitted contribution, and employers who conveniently get away from their accountability.

Then compare this with the affluent life of SSS executives with their fat pay and benefits in a layer of bureaucracy that only ensure that they get the topmost benefit while pension members grapple with a flawed system. Frustrating right? We are not even talking about how SSS branches are unable to provide convenient payment and processing system. My daughter, for instance, has to keep on going back to an SSS branch for over a year to have her membership status corrected.

There are layers of disconnect, and underlying this is the lack of real appreciation on the value of the working force. When officials pay lip service that mechanisms and systems would be improved, but very little is done to make things work for the pension members. Another critical question is on how many of the population were laid off in recent years, isn’t it the obligation of the State to provide all the means for decent and equal employment? When the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) announced that the maternity leave law will affect the hiring of women, should it be taken as it is, with all the arrogance of employers to hold hostage the contribution of the women workforce, simply on the basis of their reproductive role?

When the system fails, it is an insult to let employees bear the burden of providing the cushion and support by arbitrarily increasing the membership contribution. Some challenges would seep in every time public officials only focus on what they can get, rather than on what can be equitably promoted. While it is true that oftentimes, it is better to do something than nothing, it would also do well to endeavor to genuinely connect with the reality of the ordinary people who provide the lifeblood in the system. Fixing the system, rather than burdening pension members with additional cost could be a more appropriate response.

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