Amended social insurance law expected to solve lump-sum withdrawal problem

June 14, 2023 - 08:09
Under the current social insurance law, an employee who has paid social insurance premiums for less than 20 years may request for lump-sum payout of benefits after 12 months from the time he/she stops paying social insurance premiums.
People wait at the social security office of Quỳnh Lưu District, central Nghệ An Province to request for lump-sum payments. — VNA/VNS Photo Bích Huệ

HCM CITY — Social security offices across the country have recently witnessed long lines of people waiting to claim lump-sum payments.

According to Việt Nam Social Security, 4.23 million people newly registered for social insurance between 2016 and 2021, but during that period, 4.06 million members left the scheme.

Under the current social insurance law, an employee who has paid social insurance premiums for less than 20 years may request a lump-sum pay-out of benefits after 12 months from the time he/she stops paying social insurance premiums.

Thạch Sa, a 45-year-old migrant worker in HCM City, opted for lump-sum withdrawal one year after he lost his job due to COVID-19.

His wife and children left the city for their hometown in Trà Vinh Province since the pandemic broke out. He tried to stay in the city, take a part-time job to settle down and ran motorbike taxi in his free time but still could not afford expenses.

“I planned to stay in the city but after the pandemic, life was instable. I decided to withdraw lump-sum social insurance payment and make investment in other work,” he told Vietnam News Agency.

Nguyễn Thị Trân, 42, another worker who lost job due to layoff in HCM City, said: “It’s difficult to look for a new job now due to old age.”

She decided to ask for lump-sum benefits to get back to her hometown with her family.

Those stories reflect common willing of vast majority of workers in HCM City who lost jobs due to the pandemic due to a fall in orders and layoffs.

They want to request for lump-sum social insurance payment after receiving unemployment allowances.

In April this year, a large number of workers lined up in front of Hóc Môn District’s social security office to withdraw lump-sum payments.

Trần Dũng Hà, deputy director of HCM City Social Security, said about 40,000 labourers applied for lump-sum withdrawal in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 6.1 per cent compared to the same period last year.

The office has paid withdrawals to 25,000 workers.

According to Việt Nam Social Security, since 2016, the number of employees withdrawing social insurance has continuously increased with the annual statistics higher than the previous year. This not only affects the retirement life of workers but also has negative impacts on the State’s social security goals.

Why claiming lump-sum?

People wait at Hà Nội job service centre to claim unemployment insurance payments. —VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuấn

Most of workers thought the withdrawal would help them through short-term challenges. Others heard a rumour that the amended social insurance law allows only 50 per cent of lump-sum withdrawal.

Lê Văn Mười, 36 years old, from Thanh Hóa Province, said: “I decided to withdraw right now because it is heard that next year when the new law takes effect, employees can withdraw only half of the lump-sum payment.”

Facing two options of withdrawing all money one time or waiting until retirement to enjoy benefits, many employees said they need the money now or worry the pension is low, so claiming lump-sum is the best choice.

Huỳnh Văn Phát, a 45-year-old worker at a processing unit in District 7, HCM City, said old workers like him easily get fired for low productivity while looking for a new job is difficult.

“Can we wait until retirement age to claim the insurance? Will the pension be enough to live on?” he said.

In spite of almost 20 years of social insurance premium, he opted for lump-sum withdrawal to get budget to invest in other plans.

Trade union officials said many employees taking jobs with high intensity such as garment, leather footwear, electronics have their health declined considerably after the age of 45. Most businesses tend to lay off old workers and recruit younger ones to pay low wages.

Nguyễn Văn Hải, chairman of Bình Tân District Labour Federation, said the pension regulated in the current social insurance law is quite low and cannot meet basic demands.

He said one of his acquaintances who used to be trade union vice chairman of a big company got the monthly pension of VNĐ2.7 million, which is not enough to live on.

HCM City has more than 45,000 retired people receiving monthly pension payments of below VNĐ3.8 million – lower than the average income of the city's poverty standards.

Phạm Thị Hồng Yến, chairwoman of trade union at Intel Products Vietnam Co., Ltd., said many workers only receive the pension of VNĐ2-3 million per month.

“The pension is lower than the regional minimum wage as the current regulations," she said.

"This does not encourage employees to make long-term commitment to the social insurance system.”

Amended law

Amended social insurance regulations related to retirement age and lump-sum withdrawals have stirred public debates.

Võ Thị Huỳnh Trâm, human resources director of Sonion Vietnam Co., Ltd., said the retirement age of 60 years for women and 62 years old for men is too high. In fact, many workers who joined the social insurance system early and completed insurance premium contribution are not old enough to receive pensions. Having to wait for pension for so long has made employees quit their jobs to enjoy lump-sum benefits.

Many experts proposed adjusting retirement age based on number of years paying insurance premiums. The retirement age of 60 years for women and 62 years old for men is applicable at office employees but not appropriate for labourers working in toxic environment.

The amended social insurance law has two options for lump-sum payment.

The first option allows the employee to receive full pay-out for the entire period of participating in social insurance and then would not be entitled to monthly pension.

As per the second option, the employee would receive a lump-sum payment for at most half of the period of contribution to the retirement and survivorship allowance fund. The remaining period would be reserved for calculation of social insurance benefits when the employee reaches the retirement age.

Trần Văn Triều, director of legal consultation centre under HCM City Labour Federation, said the second option will create chaos in labour relations, stirring the recent trend of lump-sum withdrawal.

Lê Văn Thành, former head of the Department of Socio-Cultural Research, HCM City Development Research Institute, said based on surveys, workers over the age of 40 often withdraw lump-sum social insurance because they want to solve family problems or change careers. Withdrawing only half of the money does not help workers much.

For example, if an employee withdraws VNĐ200 million one time, he or she can buy a vehicle, open a small shop or repair a house. However, if they are allowed to withdraw VNĐ100 million, they cannot solve the immediate urgent need. Meanwhile, the remaining 50 per cent of social insurance cannot guarantee enough pension to live when they retire, he said.

Trần Diệu Thúy, chairwoman of HCM City Labour Federation, said the second option proposed in the draft law has caused worry among labourers, making them to head to social security offices to request for lump-sum withdrawal.

She said there should be long-term solutions to ensure jobs and stabilise income so that labourers will retain in the social insurance system until retirement, making contributions to stabilising national social welfare. — VNS