The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) on Monday relaxed rules to let small investors switch from the subsidised Swavalamban scheme to other schemes in a bid to offer an option for better returns and ensure higher earnings after retirement.
"There were several requests from NPS Lite/Swavalamban subscribers seeking porting of their permanent retirement account numbers (PRANs) from NPS Lite/Swavalamban to the All Citizen Model of the new pension system (NPS). The PFRDA, after examining the matter, approved the shifting/porting of NPS/Lite/Swavalamban accounts to NPS-All Citizen model and other sectors," the regulator said in a circular.
The move comes after returns from Swavalamban or NPS Lite scheme came lower than some of the schemes where investors are allowed greater exposure in equities and corporate bonds.
In 2012-13, the return on Swavalamban was 13.4%, which was higher than the scheme for central government employees (12.39%) and state government (13%) but lower than the returns on the scheme for private corporates that yielded 13.5-14%.
The government offers a subsidy of Rs 1,000 annually for the Swavalamban scheme to spread the pension coverage in the country, especially for unorganised sector workers who don't have any social security net.
However, the investment ceiling on Swavalamban at Rs 12,000 annually also comes in the way of small investors seeking a safety net for retired life through higher pension contribution.
Last fiscal, NPS generated returns better than the 8.5% offered by EPFO, 8.8% offered under PPF and 9-10% on fixed deposits for 5 years and above offered by some banks during 2012-13.
Though NPS was initiated in 2004 for central government employees as part of the plan to move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution system to cut the liabilities of the government, it was later rolled out for state government, PSUs, private companies and informal sector workers.