WOMEN who do not work and have little retirement savings are supported by the Government in two ways, said Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday.

First, these housewives and retirees are encouraged to start working again if they can do so.

Second, their family members have been given more incentives to top up their Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, said Mr Tan during yesterday's debate on the Manpower Ministry's budget.

But Mr Tan rejected a suggestion from Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) to make such CPF transfers from family members automatic, as "it would be intrusive for the Government to intervene".

"These are very personal decisions, and we believe at this stage, it is best left to couples to decide," he said in Parliament.

Mr Tan was responding to recent calls for more to be done to help non-working women have enough to live on in their old age.

Such women may not have much CPF savings because they stopped working after their children were born, or earned low wages while they were working, or were unable to work due to medical reasons.

To help them, the Government encourages them to rejoin the workforce so they can build up their own nest eggs.

This is done through schemes like WorkPro, which funds companies so that they can help older workers and mothers get back to work.

Even before WorkPro, which began in April 2013, more women were already participating in the labour force, and the difference in average CPF balances between men and women has been narrowing, he noted.

At the same time, "family remains an important pillar of support for women", he added, highlighting recent changes that encourage CPF members to transfer funds to their spouses' accounts.

From next year, those aged 55 and above can earn an extra 1 percentage point of interest for the first $30,000 in their combined CPF balances.

That means monies in a person's Special, Retirement or Medisave account can attract interest rates of up to 6 per cent.

But "the Government and the CPF system alone will not be able to solve all problems", he said, calling on families to step in and assist vulnerable groups.

"I urge all Singaporeans to consider how to maximise the CPF system to boost your family's retirement adequacy, and especially to look after your loved ones, who may have lower CPF accounts because they took time off to look after your families," he said.