Source Aliran

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia-As early as 2018, I had called for a fundamental change from a minimum wage system to a living wage model.

In subsequent opinion pieces, I reiterated the argument that only a migration to a living wage model would ease the dual scourge of unsustainable incomes and low Employees Provident Fund retirement savings affecting many workers.

While those in the corridors of power gave two hoots to these opinion pieces, there appears to be an awakening of sorts among people like the human resources minister and the EPF CEO.

First, Human Resources Minister V Sivakumar said in Parliament that the government is studying the living wage model.

Second and more conclusively, EPF CEO Amir Hamzah Azizan hit the right button when he attributed the low EPF savings among many workers to their low wages.

Both these statements are refreshing. They have vindicated my argument that the only way to tackle this serious issue is to move to a living wage model from the present insufficient minimum wage system.

Without a doubt, low wages translate to low EPF retirement savings. This inevitably forces retirees to continue to seek employment, which ideally should not be the case.

Unfortunately, in the absence of an adequate social security net, senior citizens have no choice but to continue to seek employment, even if it pays insufficient wages

Given that the population is rapidly ageing, the government must urgently put in place an appropriate social security net, which should include post-retirement pensions.

Perhaps the massive funds, both in cash and assets worth billions of ringgit, at the disposal of the EPF, the Social Security Organisation (Socso) and other related funds could be consolidated and engineered for this purpose.

That said, the immediate concern should be to resolve the unrealistically low wages confronting the working class. Moving to a living wage system may well reduce the mismatch between low wages and the high cost of living, as well as ease the problem of low EPF retirement savings.