23pc more Malaysians quitting country, EPF says

PAC chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed (left) shakes hand with EPF CEO Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan at the Parliament in this file picture. Shahril said there has been a 23 per cent increase in those withdrawing money from their EPF to emigrate. — Bernama pic
PAC chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed (left) shakes hand with EPF CEO Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan at the Parliament in this file picture. Shahril said there has been a 23 per cent increase in those withdrawing money from their EPF to emigrate. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 — Nearly a quarter more Malaysians or 23 per cent withdrew from their principal retirement pension account last year, indicating a rise in the number emigrating, Malaysia’s largest worker pension fund said today.

Employees Provident Fund (EPF) chief executive Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said the figure was based on a comparison of withdrawals from Account I in 2015 and the preceding year, news portal Malaysiakini reported.

“For 2014, there were 1,787 withdrawals for leaving the country, involving RM99 million in principal.

“In 2015, there was an increase to 2,206 people involving RM134.6 million,” he was quoted saying in a media briefing at the EPF headquarters here.

Money from the EPF’s Account I is usually locked and withdrawals can only be made when the account owner reaches age 55, dies or otherwise becomes incapacitated, or emigrates.

Shahril Ridza however played down the uptake in withdrawals as “nothing particularly drastic” even as he conceded there was a slight increase.

Over two million Malaysians are estimated to have emigrated since independence in 1957.

A World Bank report in 2011 noted the number of skilled Malaysians living abroad rose 300 per cent in the last two decades, with two out of every 10 Malaysians with tertiary education opting to leave for member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), or neighbouring Singapore.

At the media briefing, Shahril Ridza was also reported saying workers may lose as much as RM20,000 to RM25,000 if they opted to keep their EPF contribution rate at the lowered rate of 8 per cent, instead of the usual 11 per cent rate.

He expressed confidence that half of the account holders would maintain their worker contribution at 11 per cent despite the recent government option to reduce the amount.

“We receive a net inflow or contributions of between RM24 billion and RM26 billion a year. So, it doesn’t really impact us from the cash flow point of view as this is a slight reduction that we will adjust accordingly.

“We are not, from either point of view, particularly worried about it. We are just more worried that we want the people make the right choice. That is more important in the long-term,” he was quoted saying when asked if the option would affect EPF’s investments.