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Welfare Reform on the Web (September 2011): Pensions - UK

Building a strong, stable and transparent pensions system

Workplace Retirement Income Commission


This report claims that almost three quarters of private sector staff will be unable to ‘adequately exist’ when they retire due to a low level of savings and the costly, complex and inefficient pension system. It points out that the value of pensions has been hit by the global recession, low investment returns, increases in household debt, drops in real incomes and low interest rates. The study suggests that there is a lack of trust in the system and that company pension schemes are often opaque and confusing for workers. It warns that workers must receive a better deal if they are to bother saving for retirement, and calls for an increase in minimum contributions to pension pots. Other recommendations include the establishment of an independent standing commission on pensions and that companies should offer workers free financial advice worth up to £500.00.

Privatisation and pensions: what does his mean for women?

L. Foster

Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, vol.19, 2011, p. 103-115

This paper considers the relationship between gender and private pension provision in the UK. It initially provides a brief history of women’s involvement private pensions, and the relationship between employment status and pension accumulation. It then considers the implications for women of pension changes under New Labour and the Coalition government. The changes were influenced by the prevailing political and economic climate. In recent years this has been dominated by neoliberal ideologies, which emphasise deregulation, the curtailment of the welfare state, personal responsibility for saving, and market solutions to social problems within the pension system. Due to their caring responsibilities and intermittent work histories, women are ill-equipped to save in private pension schemes and are left dependent on means-tested pension provision.

Resisting the attack on pensions


Labour Research, July 2011, p. 12-13

Unions reacted furiously when, in mid-June 2011, Treasury secretary Danny Alexander announced detailed proposals for a series of changes to public sector pensions while negotiations were still in progress. Now the Coalition government faces the choice of negotiating an acceptable deal or being confronted with a rolling programme of industrial action. Planned reforms detrimental to workers include higher normal retirement ages, a move from final salary to career average pensions, potential loss of Fair Deal pension protection for privatised workers, a switch to the lower CPI inflation index from the customary RPI one, and contribution increases.

Unions plan NHS-wide strike on pensions

P. Curtis and D. Milmo

The Guardian, Aug. 25th 2011, p. 10

Trade unions are planning a rolling series of targeted strikes by public sector workers from the autumn, instead of mass walkouts, if talks on pension reforms fail. Unions representing workers from across the NHS agreed to form a powerful new campaigning group to establish plans for the possibility of an NHS-wide strike over the government's pension plans. Sources close to those talks suggested that they could adopt ‘smart’ strike action, that would disrupt swaths of the health service, potentially leading to cancellation of elective surgery and non-crucial appointments, while guaranteeing minimum levels of service and patient safety.

(See also The Guardian, Aug. 26th 2011, p. 24)

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