LATIN AMERICA - New measures by Panama's parliament to reform the country's social security system will not be enacted for at least 90 days because of pressure from opposition groups.
Panama’s Social Security Fund (Caja de Seguro Social – CSS) is currently under funded by US$4.5bn, and according to recent government estimates, the fund will go bankrupt by 2012 if changes do not take place.
However, since the approval of the new law, the National Front for the Defense of the Social Security Fund (FRENADESSO) has been promoting and organizing strikes and demonstrations throughout the country with the aim of forcing a repeal of the pension reform laws.
The most important change to the pay-as-you-go pension program is the increasing of both the men’s and women’s retirement ages from 62 to 65 and from 57 to 60 respectively by 2015.
Furthermore, the reform includes an increase in the length of time that contributions need to be paid into the social security system from 15 to 25 years by 2015, and a rise in the overall contribution rate for workers from 7.25% to 9% of earnings and for employers from 10.75% to 13.25% of payroll by 2010.
As a result of the strikes, the government has agreed to suspend the new law and open a 90-day negotiation period with the unions and business leaders, with a view to discussing possible modifications to the laws.
After this period, it is anticipated that reform will recommence once negotiated changes - due to be introduced gradually between 2007 and 2015 - have been made to the laws.
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