Ninety percent of Filipino workers worry about being poor upon retirement

Global Aging Institute and Pru Life UK regional headquarters Prudential Corporation Asia survey shows strong support for retirement reform across East Asia

Manila, 24 September 2015 - Ninety percent of working Filipinos worry about being poor and in need of money upon retirement – this is one of the key findings from a major study on retirement attitudes and expectations in East Asia conducted by The Global Aging Institute (GAI), in partnership with Pru Life UK regional headquarters Prudential Corporation Asia (PCA). From Challenge to Opportunity: Wave 2 of the East Asia Retirement Survey shows the Philippines to be second only to Vietnam (95 percent) in terms of growing anxiety about retirement prospects. This was followed by Indonesia (83 percent) South Korea (81 percent), Thailand (79 percent), Malaysia (68 percent), Singapore (66 percent), Hong Kong (64 percent), Taiwan (60 percent) and China (50 percent).

Today’s working-age adults, who are more affluent, educated and market-oriented than their parents, are likely to arrive in retirement better prepared than today’s retirees. Yet most have good reason to worry their future retirement security. According to the survey, only 68 percent of Filipino workers expect to receive Social Security System or Pag-IBIG Fund benefits when they retire, while just 8 percent expect to receive income from financial assets like insurance or annuity products and stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. The majority of Filipino workers surveyed are anxious about exhausting their savings (89 percent), being in poor health and having no one to care for them (88 percent) and being a burden on their children (80 percent) after retiring.

The study also revealed that nearly three-fifths of Filipino retirees surveyed continue to work at least part time to supplement their income. Meanwhile, dependence on family is very high. Seventy-eight percent of elderly retirees live with their grown children, a larger share than anywhere else surveyed except Vietnam.     

Striking rejection of the family as the main source of financial support in retirement

The survey reveals that an overwhelming majority of respondents in every market reject the traditional expectation that the family should be primarily responsible for providing for the elderly.

By contrast, different markets have different views about who should take the place of the family in guaranteeing retirement security. In the Philippines, 66 percent of respondents believe that the government should be mostly responsible for providing retirement income, while 10 percent believe that the responsibility should fall upon retirees themselves. Just 8 percent think that retirement income should be the responsibility of the family. In South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a majority or plurality of respondents (between 40 and 61 percent) feel that retirees themselves should be responsible for their own retirement income. In Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Thailand, a majority or plurality of respondents (between 43 and 66 per cent) feel that government should assume the primary role in retirement security.

Although the family’s role in retirement security has already diminished over the years, and most respondents want to see it shrink even further, the lack of viable alternatives to close the retirement security gap is cause for concern. Dr. Richard Jackson, founder and president of GAI, said: “The findings show that retirees in East Asia find themselves at a difficult juncture. Traditional family support networks have been weakening, yet adequate government and market substitutes have not yet been put in place. The result is growing economic vulnerability. The retirement outlook for today’s workers is brighter in most markets, but still highly uncertain. Across East Asia, workers are very anxious about their retirement prospects, but are also very eager to improve them.”

Broad support for reforms to boost retirement savings

The good news is that there is a remarkable willingness among East Asians to support retirement reform, even when it will involve personal sacrifice. In every market, an enormous majority of respondents, ranging from 77 percent in China to 90 percent in Hong Kong and Indonesia, agree that the government should require workers to save more for their own retirement. In most markets, a majority of respondents also agree that the government should raise the retirement age, increase taxes to offer a basic pension benefit to those elderly who are in financial need, and require workers to contribute more to pay for government pension programmes. In the Philippines, 69 percent of respondents believe that government should encourage workers to save more for their own retirement by offering them tax breaks, while 82 percent believe that the government should require workers to save more for retirement.  

Role of financial services is growing in retirement planning

Attitudes towards the financial services industry vary across the 10 markets, but in most of them the survey reveals that the level of trust in the industry is high, with more respondents agreeing than disagreeing that “people can trust financial services companies to help them prepare for retirement.” The likelihood that workers will seek professional financial advice about how to invest their retirement savings is highly correlated with their level of income and educational attainment. Nevertheless, the vast majority of workers who have received professional financial advice, ranging from 60 percent in South Korea to 96 percent in Indonesia, said that they found it useful.

In every market, the share of today’s workers who expect to receive income in retirement from insurance and annuity products and/or stocks, bonds or mutual funds is rising. In China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, between 60 and 80 percent of workers expect to receive income from these financial assets. At the low end of the spectrum are Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, where less than 25 percent of today’s workers expect to receive income from insurance or annuity products and/or stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.

Of all of the markets surveyed, the Philippines has the smallest share of respondents that receive or expect to receive income from financial assets like insurance or annuity products and stocks, bonds or mutual funds in retirement. Only 10 percent of Filipino workers report having received professional financial advice about how to invest their retirement savings, although 78 percent of those workers who have received advice say that they found the advice to be useful.

Pru Life UK President and CEO Antonio Manuel De Rosas underscored the role of the financial services industry in increasing awareness of financial planning methods and tools. “While the Philippine market is growing increasingly discerning of the need to plan for the future, the concept of retirement planning is fairly new in the country. We at Pru Life UK try to bridge this gap through platforms such as our Cha-Ching Financial Literacy for the Youth Programme. Integrated in the curricula of second- and third-grade students of our partner schools in partnership with the Department of Education, the Cha-Ching programme aims to propagate a culture of smart money management within young children and equip them to be money-smart adults.”


The enormous challenge facing East Asia’s aging populations also presents an enormous opportunity to build more adequate and sustainable retirement systems. There is a critical role for both governments and financial services to play. The survey suggests eight strategic steps for policymakers and financial services to take:

Implications for government policymakers

  • Improve the adequacy of state pension systems: - extend their reach so they cover a broader cross section of the workforce and increase contribution rates so that they deliver more adequate benefits.
  • Encourage or require workers to save more for their own retirement: - as they improve the adequacy of state pension systems, policymakers also need to increase supplemental retirement savings.
  • Establish more robust floors of old-age poverty protection: - governments must put in place adequate non-contributory old-age safety nets, or what are sometimes called “social pensions.”
  • Raise retirement ages and encourage longer work lives: - governments should gradually phase out the early mandatory retirement ages that are enforced in the formal sectors of many East Asian countries.

Implications for financial services providers

  • Educate the public about the critical role of the financial services industry in retirement savings: - much public education is needed if savings are to play a greater role in retirement security.
  • Help today’s workers turn their retirement savings aspirations into retirement realities: - the financial services industry can help bridge the disconnect between retirement savings aspirations and retirement savings realities.
  • Design and market financial products and services for workers who want to assume responsibility for their own retirement security: - as incomes and educational attainment rise, a growing share of the workforce will be increasingly eager for sophisticated financial advice and products.
  • Satisfy the widespread public demand for financial products that convert household savings and lump-sum pension payments into retirement income streams: - filling the demand for annuities and annuity-like products is another critical step the financial services industry can take to help improve future retirement security.


From Challenge to Opportunity presents the findings of a survey that was designed by GAI and conducted by Ipsos, a global research firm. More than 10,000 (10,019) respondents from 10 markets – China, Hong Kong SAR, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam – took part. The respondents were household main earners aged 20 or older, including both current and retired main earners. Telephone interviews were conducted in China, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, while face-to-face interviews were conducted in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. 

About the East Asia Retirement Survey

The East Asia Retirement Survey is part of the multiyear Global Aging Preparedness Project, which was launched in 2010 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with the publication of The Global Aging Preparedness Index, a unique new tool for assessing the fiscal sustainability and income adequacy of retirement systems around the world. When project director Richard Jackson left CSIS early in 2014 to found the Global Aging Institute (GAI), the project moved with him and since then has continued under the auspices of GAI. Prudential plc has been collaborating with Richard Jackson on the project since 2010 and continues to support the ongoing work on the project being carried out by GAI.

The East Asia Retirement Survey is now in its second wave. The first wave of the survey, which was conducted in the summer of 2011, was administered to workers and retirees in China, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. The second wave of the survey, which was conducted in the summer of 2014, was administered to workers and retirees in the six first-wave countries plus Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.   All of the survey samples were nationally representative, except that in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam they were limited to urban areas.

The results of the first wave of the survey were published in Balancing Tradition and Modernity: The Future of Retirement in East Asia (Washington, DC: CSIS, 2012). In addition to From Challenge to Opportunity, report, the results of the second wave are also presented in a series of ten shorter country reports. All of the reports, together with supplemental data, are available on dedicated project websites at and


Richard Jackson is the founder and president of the Global Aging Institute (GAI), a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to improving understanding of the economic, social, and geopolitical challenges created by demographic change, and especially population aging, in the United States and around the world. He is also a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a senior advisor to the Concord Coalition. Richard is the author or co-author of numerous policy studies, including Lessons from Abroad for the U.S. Entitlement Debate (2014); The Global Aging Preparedness Index, Second Edition (2013); Balancing Tradition and Modernity: The Future of Retirement in East Asia (2012); Global Aging and the Future of Emerging Markets (2011); and The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century (2008). Richard regularly speaks on demographic issues and is widely quoted in the media. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University and lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife Perrine and their three children, Benjamin, Brian, and Penelope. 

Tobias Peter is a research associate at the Global Aging Institute. Prior to beginning his graduate studies, he worked with Richard Jackson on global aging issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he was successively an intern, research assistant, and programme coordinator. Tobias is the co-author of several policy studies, including U.S. Development Policy in an Aging World: New Challenges and New Priorities for a New Demographic Era (2013) The Global Aging Preparedness Index, Second Edition (2013); and Balancing Tradition and Modernity: The Future of Retirement in East Asia (2012). He holds a B.A. in history and applied economics from the College of St. Scholastica and a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.


The Global Aging Institute (GAI) is a nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to improving our understanding of global aging, to informing policymakers and the public about the challenges it poses, and to encouraging timely and constructive policy responses. GAI’s agenda is broad, encompassing everything from retirement security to national security, and its horizons are global, extending to aging societies worldwide.

GAI was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. Although GAI is new, its mission is not. Before launching the institute, Richard Jackson, GAI’s president, directed a research program on global aging at the Center for Strategic and International Studies which, over a span of nearly fifteen years, produced a large body of cutting-edge research and analysis that played a leading role in shaping the debate over what promises to be one of the defining challenges of the twenty-first century. GAI’s Board of Directors is chaired by Thomas S. Terry, CEO of the Terry Group and immediate past president of the American Academy of Actuaries. To learn more about the Global Aging Institute, visit



Prudential Corporation Asia is a business unit of Prudential plc (United Kingdom)*, comprising its life insurance operations in Asia, and its asset management business, Eastspring Investments. It is headquartered in Hong Kong.

Prudential is a leading life insurer that spans 12 markets in Asia, covering Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Prudential has a robust multi-channel distribution platform providing a comprehensive range of savings, investment and protection products to meet the diverse needs of Asian people.

Eastspring Investments manages investments across Asia on behalf of a wide range of retail and institutional investors, with about half of its assets sourced from life and pension products sold by Prudential plc. It is one of the region’s largest asset managers with operations in 10 markets plus offices in North America, the UAE, the UK and Luxembourg. It has £85.3 billion in assets under management (as at 30 June 2015), managing funds across a range of asset classes including equities and fixed income.

*Prudential plc is incorporated in England and Wales, and its affiliated companies constitute one of the world's leading financial services groups.  It provides insurance and financial services through its subsidiaries and affiliates throughout the world.  It has been in existence for 166 years and has £505 billion in assets under management (as at 30 June 2015). Prudential plc is not affiliated in any manner with Prudential Financial, Inc., a company whose principal place of business is in the United States of America.

Prudential plc is listed on the stock exchanges of London (PRU.L), Hong Kong (2378.HK), Singapore (K6S.SG) and New York (PUK.N)


Established in 1996, Pru Life UK is a subsidiary of Prudential plc. Pru Life UK is a life insurance company and is not engaged in the business of selling pre-need plans. Prudential plc is a United Kingdom-registered company. Its regional headquarters, Prudential Corporation Asia, is based in Hong Kong. Pru Life UK and Prudential plc are not affiliated with Prudential Financial, Inc. (a US-registered company), Philippine Prudential Life Insurance Company, Prudentialife Plans, Inc. or Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. (all Philippine-registered companies).

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