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Welfare Reform on the Web (December 2005): Pensions - UK

Bosses can retire at 60 on pensions 26 times higher than workers says TUC

A. Seager

Guardian, November 24th 2005, p.25

The TUC reveals the disparity between retirement pension deals for bosses and workers. The comments come in the context of the Pension Commission's expected proposals, a poll showing that most people are unwilling to work until 67, and Cass Business School's prediction that costs of absenteeism will rise if the pension age is raised.

Brown's approach to pensions is not sustainable

N. Timmins

Financial Times, November 25th 2005, p.17

The pre-publication row in government over the Pension Commission's report is explained in terms of Turner wanting a Beveridgean, predictable and basic provision for all (also reportedly favoured by Blair and Hutton), and Brown wanting means testing, good for the poorest but with an attendant reduction in incentives to save. The cost difference between the Turner approach and the likely cost of the Brown policy is reportedly smaller than the Chancellor, whose interest in pension provision, it is claimed, doesn't extend beyond the poorest and making affordable looking projections of future costs, is alleged to want people to believe.

Change in the balance of power for UK pensions

J. Coates & E. Lynam

Pensions, vol. 10, 2005, p.308-316

Within the context of defined benefit pension schemes, 'debt on employer' legislation and the 2004 Pensions Act, this article looks at power shifts between scheme trustees and employers, focussing on approaches for employers and the outlook for corporate activity. Also covers: funding and under-funding, the pensions regulator and anti- avoidance measures.

The changing role of employers in pensions provision

A. Neuberger

Pensions, vol. 10, 2005, p.367-370

This opinion piece on occupational pensions, which looks at their history, their use by employers as recruitment and retention incentives, and the expensive and unattractive results of government forced "improvements", anticipates continued decline at a time of increasing need for saving.

Contributions to defined pension schemes by staff could be halted

N. Timmins

Financial Times, November 18th 2005, p.2

Article presents results of a survey which shows numbers of defined benefit schemes closed to new or existing members. It reveals that pension providers are near breaking point. There are comments and speculation regarding anticipated Pension Commission reform proposals.

Educating employers to make informed choices about financial education

V. Jenkins

Pensions, vol.10, 2005, p.331-335

Financial education from employers may be the key to government achieving a shift away from reliance on state pensions according to this article which draws on US research. While UK focussed research is needed, this paper suggests that the incentive for employers to act comes from the benefits of a workforce that is more productive because not stressed about personal finances.

Fewer pensions pots, more efficiency

T. Matthews

Financial Times, November 23rd 2005, p. 19

Proposes that each person in the UK should have a pension account, rather like a bank account, into which he/she and his/her employer would pay contributions.

Focus falls on fairer pensions for women

B. Hall

Financial Times, November 3rd 2005, p.3

Department for Work and Pensions research indicates that only 30% of women of retirement age are entitled to the full state pension compared with 84% of men. Redressing this imbalance is seen as the yardstick with which to judge reform. Options for speeding up the rebalancing process are touched on here, but decisions await the Pension Commission report due at the end of November.

Government pressure delayed pension report

M. Brignall

Guardian, November 19th 2005, p. 25

Publication of an investigative report into how 85,000 pensioners lost their occupational pensions following employer bankruptcies, expected to be damaging for the government, has been delayed for a second time by government pressure according to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's letter to MPs.

The impact of the pensions regulator

D. Norgrove

Pensions, vol. 10, 2005, p.303-307

The first chair of the Pensions Regulator for U.K. occupational pensions sets out the objectives and methods of the new body, commenting on the empowerment of scheme trustees.

One in 5 men won’t reach retirement if age rises to 67

I. Cowie

Daily Telegraph, November 18th 2005, p.1

Government Actuary's figures show that one in five men and one in eight women who reach 65 die before reaching 67. Author comments on these figures in the context of the forthcoming Pension Commission report which is expected to recommend raising the retirement age to 67.

People must save more for retirement

A. Grice

Independent, November 24th 2005, p.23

Reports that government is to announce five tests for assessing the Pension Commission's proposals and that a white paper on pension reform is planned for next Spring. Means testing is likely to remain.

Priceless proposals to bring state pension in line with earnings

N. Timmins & B. Hall

Financial Times, November 24th 2005, p.4

Discusses assumptions about the projected real value of the pension credit used by the Treasury and Turner's Pension Commission. If the basic state pension and means testing continue as now, 75% of pensioners will be forced to claim the means tested pension credit by 2050. Absenteeism is also predicted to increase dramatically if the retirement age is raised with consequent costs to the state.

State sector pension bill 'is billions more than estimated'

G. Rozenberg

Times, November 12th 2005, p.56

Incorrect assumptions about future interest rates reveal a further £817 billion of public pension liabilities according to a free-market think-tank.

[See also Independent, November 15th 2005, p.63]

Talk of pensions crisis is overblown

M. Wolf

Financial Times, November 18th 2005, p. 19

Three recent publications cast doubt on the pension crisis theory. Saving should be made easier but not compelled.

Tories warn of tax rises caused by pension review

A.Grice

Independent, November 18th 2005, p. 26

Tories claim that Labour may use the Turner report on pension reform as an excuse to raise taxes to fill the black hole in the public finances.

Turner hits back on pensions

N. Timmins, J. Bitz & B. Hall

Financial Times, November 25th 2005, p.1

According to Pension Commission projections the current pension system will cost more than Treasury projections so that over time the Commission's proposals for a more generous basic pension would cost little more than Brown's preferred system. The Chancellor, who opposes a return to uprating the basic state pension in line with earnings, refutes allegations that he is trying to sabotage the Turner report before it is published, stating that reform must be continuous.

[See also Daily Telegraph, November 25th 2005, p.4; Guardian, November 25th 2005, p. 4; Independent, November 25th 2005, p.9; Financial Times November 25th 2005, p.3 & 17]

Turner blueprint for pensions

N. Timmins

Financial Times, November 17th 2005, p. 1

More generous pensions rising in line with earnings, a raised retirement age of 67, and a national pension savings plan modelled on New Zealand's Kiwisave are amongst the proposals expected to be included in Turner's Pension Commission report to be published at the end of November. Revision of rules and rates is thought to be a more favoured option than abolition of the state second pension.

[See also: Financial Times, November 17th 2005 p. 3 and Daily Telegraph November 17th 2005, p.15]

Unintended consequences of the UK’s Pensions Act

A. Byrne and D. Harrison

Pensions International, issue 75, 2005, p.17-18

Paper reports on the long-term impact of the Pensions Act 2004 on occupational pensions schemes. Research suggests that while the Act will succeed in improving the governance of occupational schemes and will enhance the short term security of members' benefits, it will do so at the expense of employer commitment. Many employers will reduce their pension liabilities by closing defined benefit schemes and moving to defined contribution schemes for all employees.

When do benevolent capitalists change their minds? Explaining the retrenchment in defined-benefit pensions in Britain

P. Bridgen and T. Meyer

Social Policy and Administration, vol.39, 2005, p.764-785

In countries with a large private welfare sector like the UK, employers have been major social policy players, but the rationale behind their actions is not well understood. Article uses the British occupational pension sector as a case study to explore the motives behind the decisions of employers. In particular it seeks to understand why employers, since the late 1990s, have been closing their final salary pension schemes to new members. It suggests, using historical material, interview data and insights from behavioural economics, that current explanations for this change have important gaps because they are based on too limited a view of employers' decision-making. It points out the importance of herd behaviour in explaining the change.

Why should we fund striplings of 60?

P. Wheatcroft

Times, November 18th, 2005, p. 21

Author favours raising the pension age but argues that public sector workers must not receive preferential treatment. It is only fair that they also should be expected to work beyond their current retirement age of 60.

The women’s pension crisis is deeply unsexy, but serious

J. Ashley

Guardian, November 7th 2005, p.33 At present only 16% of recently retired women in the UK have paid sufficient national insurance contributions to receive a full state pension. This is because they take long breaks from paid work in order to care for children and older relatives.

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