Proposals outlined by the Irish social affairs minister Seamus Brennan to make extra pension contributions compulsory for everyone have met with a mixed reaction.
Mr Brennan commissioned the Pensions Board to find a way of meeting the looming demographic crisis facing the country’s pensions system, and the board’s response was to suggest extra top-up charges for all.
The board’s report added that there might be some scope for those already covered by a comprehensive private or occupational scheme to be exempt from the plans, although it is thought that Mr Brennan favors mandatory charges for everyone.
The top-ups could constitute around 10% of salary, but they would see the state pension increase in value from the present 33% of gross average industrial earnings to around 40% by 2016.
However the government’s finance ministry distanced itself from the findings and described the proposals as merely a ‘technical examination’ of the impact of mandatory charges.
The business lobbying body Ibec condemned the idea of pensions compulsion.
Flexibility in response is the appropriate reaction to an uncertain future and mandatory pension provision flies in the face of that wisdom, Ibec’s Danny McCoy told the Irish Times.
In a dynamic, competitive economy like Ireland, the government needs to encourage, not compel, savings behavior. This is clearly best pursued by building on the current voluntary approach to pension provision.