THE Social Security System’s (SSS) contributions collected from members fell 7.1% in 2020 to P204.75 billion, reflecting the job losses caused by the pandemic.

Citing preliminary data from the SSS, the Department of Finance (DoF) said in a statement Friday that contributions missed the P246.83-billion target set for the year by 17%.

“The drop was the result of 1.5 million members unable to pay their contributions because of COVID-related job losses,” the DoF said.

The SSS released P192.84 billion in benefits last year, down 2%.

The pension fund’s contribution-benefit surplus fell 81% to P11.92 billion.

Loans released to members rose 53.6% to P62.35 billion, while loan payments fell 17.6% to P32.44 billion due to the debt moratoriums imposed during the public health crisis.

Calamity loans disbursements hit P31.69 billion last year, salary loans amounted totaled P30.47 billion and pension loans amounted to P3.4 billion.

Operating expenses fell 17.7% to P8.18 billion.

In a separate statement Friday, the SSS said it earned P32.47 billion from its investments in 2020, down 20.7% after the economic crisis dampened returns from the stock market and from interest-bearing securities.

The pension fund said its return on investment was 5.89%, well below the average of 8.07% recorded in the past decade.

It closed the year with a P589 billion investment portfolio last year, with government securities accounting for 41.9%, member loans 19.1%, equities 16.7%, property 10.1%, corporate notes and bonds 5.8%, bank deposits 2.8%, external funds 2.2%, and housing and development loans 1.5%.

“SSS investment performance has consistently outperformed major investment benchmarks. Whatever are the prevailing market conditions, we continue to perform well in our investment activities. As guided by our charter, we adhere to the principles of safety, good yield, and liquidity,” SSS President and CEO Aurora C. Ignacio in the statement.

The government is now working to suspend the scheduled increase in contributions of members to the pension fund. The Senate last month approved on third and final reading a bill granting the President the authority to suspend the contribution rate hike for up to a year.

Under Republic Act No. 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, the SSS is scheduled to raise its contribution rate to 13% from 12% this year. A one percentage point increase in contributions is scheduled every other year starting 2019 until the rate hits 15%. — Beatrice M. Laforga