x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Indian workers keen on pension plan

A pension and insurance scheme by the Indian government is intended to help expatriates save for a rainy day, but many of those who would benefit from the scheme have questions about it.

DUBAI // Blue-collar Indian workers and welfare organisations in the Emirates want more information on a pension and insurance initiative for expatriates that the Indian government announced this month.

Under the Pension and Life Insurance Fund (Plif), the government will contribute partly towards pension and life insurance coverage for millions of non-resident Indians (NRIs), particularly low-income workers.

The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, launched the voluntary scheme, intended to encourage expatriates to save, at the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas - or Indian diaspora event - last weekend.

Under the scheme, which is expected to benefit millions of Indians working overseas, the government will contribute up to 3,000 rupees (Dh214) annually for female workers and up to 2,000 rupees for male workers overseas for a specified period. Workers will have to save a minimum of 5,000 rupees a year to benefit, authorities said.

"The basic idea is to encourage the saving habit," said Atul Kumar Tiwari, joint secretary of the Financial Services Division at the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

"The fund has three components to it and will cover pension, resettlement and insurance. In case of resettlement, when a worker returns home, he will have enough money to sustain himself for the next six months," he said.

"We are still working out the details," Mr Tiwari said, adding that only workers with proper clearance from Indian immigration authorities would be eligible. The fund is expected to be rolled out from April.

Officials said workers could benefit from the different components of Plif depending on the amount and the number of years they had saved.

"We need clear details to take a decision," said Anil Unnithan, a security guard in Jebel Ali who earns about Dh1,800 a month. "If it provides insurance and takes care of my family, that will be really good."

Narayana Venugopal, a construction worker in Dubai who earns Dh1,800 a month, said the Plif would help secure his future. "I have worked for 24 years in the Gulf," Mr Venugopal said.

"When I go back home, I will have no savings. But, if the government pays some money each year, it is an incentive to put away some money."

But he, too, felt there were not enough details available: "I'll wait for more information."

The Pravasi Bandhu Welfare Trust, a community organisation, has written to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs - which will pay for the fund - for information.

"We have been requesting for a pension and insurance cover for expatriates for years now," said KV Shamsudheen, the chairman of the organisation, which has been advocating financial discipline among low and middle-income groups through personal counselling and weekly radio shows.

"It is great that the government has finally decided to implement this," he said, adding that saving about Dh70 a month can be achieved by low-income workers.

"They need to be convinced that it will help them in the long run. It is possible to save," he said.

However, Narasima Chari, a driver at a private company, said saving 5,000 rupees a year was tough for people like him who earned less than Dh1,000 a month.

"It is a small amount, but I have a huge family and have just about enough money to take care of my expenses and send some money home," he said.