Danilo Calape, a Philippine social security system official in Abu Dhabi, says not enough Filipinos are saving for their future by contributing Dh50 to D150 a month to their retirement funds. He blames low pay, lack of time and remittance costs. Christopher Pike / The National
ABU DHABI // Only one in 10 Filipino expatriates are saving enough for their future through a social security scheme for overseas workers.
The Philippine government’s social security system (SSS) requires contributions of between Dh50 and Dh150 a month from overseas workers to give them a pension after 60 years of age.
Danilo Calape, SSS officer in charge for Abu Dhabi, said only about 60,000 of the country’s 600,000-strong Filipino community were regularly making payments.
“There is a low degree of saving consciousness among the Filipino community in the UAE,” Mr Calape said.
He blamed the low pay of many workers, lack of time and the high cost of remittances. Some catch up on missed payments when they return home but many ignore them altogether.
“Some may just opt to pay in the Philippines but, unfortunately, not all are paying religiously because of family priorities,” Mr Calape said.
He urged Filipinos to contribute regularly to the SSS because it would be of benefit to them on their return home.
“When someone turns 60, he has to return to the Philippines. If he does not have SSS membership, he will not be receiving a lifetime monthly pension,” Mr Calape said.
Caloy Serrano, the head of the Philippine remittance section at Al Rostamani International Exchange in Abu Dhabi, said that an SSS member had to contribute for at least 120 months to receive a pension.
“It is preferable to continue contributing even after retirement age, even if one has exceeded the 120 months’ contribution, because this will ensure higher benefits and privileges,” Mr Serrano said.
He agreed that many Filipinos were not putting enough away for the future.
“It is sad to say but a lot Filipinos often put off paying their contributions, live in the present and concentrate on their present needs – food, shelter, fun and enjoyment,” Mr Serrano said. He said they were spending their salaries on “new phones, televisions, gadgets and other electronic items”.
Reynaldo Javier, a 50-year-old Filipino who works as an engineer in Abu Dhabi, said because many of his compatriots were paid low salaries, it was difficult for them to spare Dh50 a month for their SSS contribution.
“Most of us here are not great earners. We are already struggling to sustain a life here and support family back home,” said Mr Javier, a father of three, who has been in Abu Dhabi for 15 years. “In such a scenario it becomes difficult for many to spend money on something for our future, not the present.”
Because many Filipino expatriates are young, it was difficult for them to realize the importance of saving, he said.
“Future challenges or life after retirement is not something they want to think about,” said Mr Javier, who has been an SSS member since 1975.
“For them, social security is for old people.”
He believed the Philippine government should do more to promote the scheme. “I feel there is a need for the embassy and the related government officials to spread awareness among the community about saving and acquiring social security.
“No one is going to live here for ever. All of us have to go back home. But only a few want to plan for life after their UAE job. Then you will not be young and fit enough to work but will have to pay so many bills back home.”