Private Pensions Series

1990-0562 (online)
1990-0570 (print)
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This series presents analytical reports prepared by the OECD’s Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs on private pensions and private pension policies in OECD countries. Recent reports have covered such topics as supervising and regulating private pension schemes, pension reform, and administrative costs of private pension schemes. The series also includes proceedings of conferences on various aspects of private pensions.

Protecting Pensions

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Protecting Pensions

Policy Analysis and Examples from OECD Countries You do not have access to this content

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23 Oct 2007
9789264028111 (PDF) ;9789264028104(print)

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Pension fund members across OECD countries have seen the loss or reduction of pension benefits in recent years. This has been associated with declining assets and increasing liabilities, with accounting and regulation changes crystallising these problems. Consequently, the issue of how to protect pension benefits has returned as a major topic of policy debate for many governments and for the pension industry worldwide. OECD countries have responded in different ways:

  • Re-examining and altering accounting and funding rules;
  • Strengthening or introducing pension benefit guarantee schemes; and
  • Looking at the related issue of whether pension benefits should receive protection in bankruptcy and insolvency procedures.

Finally, debate has also focused on whether pension fund related risks can or should be shared, with guarantees for insured or pension products attracting renewed attention.

This volume looks at various methods of protecting pension benefits. It provides in-depth information on the application of these methods in OECD countries and analyses their advantages and drawbacks. Methods of risk sharing amongst pension fund beneficiaries, providers and sponsors are discussed through an analysis of insured pension contracts and of the pension systems in place in Denmark and Iceland. This publication offers unique international comparative and analytical data for policy makers and pension industry participants globally.

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  • Introduction
    Occupational pension plans – employment-based arrangements – have historically played a key role in the retirement income systems of many OECD countries. Even today, these plans cover most workers in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. As shown in Figure 1, the coverage rates of occupational plans in these countries are above 90 percent of the workforce, which can be explained by their mandatory (by law or statute) or quasi-mandatory nature (as a result of bargaining at the national or industry-wide level). Occupational pension plans are mandatory in Finland, Iceland, Switzerland and, since 2006, in Norway. In these four countries, employers must establish pension plans and employees are obliged to join them.
  • Reforming the valuation and funding of pension promises: are occupational pensions safer?
    Since 2001, occupational defined benefit (DB) pension plans in OECD countries have experienced an adverse funding situation, that is, a low ratio of assets to liabilities. The decline in funding ratios can be traced to the low interest rate environment and poor equity market returns, together with longer term pressures such as revisions in life expectancy assumptions. Various regulatory initiatives have been undertaken to address these funding gaps, some providing forbearance to plan sponsors, others aiming at improving benefit protection outright. At the same time, new accounting standards have been introduced which aim at shining a bright light on what has been historically a rather obscure but major component of the balance sheet of pension plan sponsors.
  • Funding rules and actuarial methods
    This report outlines the regulatory framework within which defined benefit (DB) pension plans are financed and addresses the challenges facing the funding of such plans. The Appendices include a summary and discussion of the funding regulations in selected OECD countries, most of which have a long history of externally funded DB pension plans. This report attempts to draw on the positive and negative experiences in these countries and then develop ideas and recommendations for the regulation of pension plan financing in OECD countries and elsewhere.
  • Pension Fund Regulation and Risk Management: Results from an ALM Optimisation Exercise
    This paper provides a stylised assessment of the impact of investmentrelevant pension fund regulations and accounting rules on contribution and investment strategies within the context of an asset-liability model (ALM) specifically designed for this purpose. The regulations and accounting rules considered represent, in a simplified way, the situation in Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States. These countries were studied for their differences in regulations, including some major regulatory initiatives in recent years, as well for the size of their defined benefit (DB) systems. The analysis could in principle be extended to other countries or regulations.
  • Pension Fund Guarantee Schemes
    The issue of pension benefit security is currently in the foreground of both economic and political debate in many OECD countries. After a ‘golden age’ for pension funds, which enjoyed high investment returns and funding surpluses throughout the 1990s, a more troubled period has emerged since the start of the millennium. With equity market corrections, (and the subsequent questioning of long-term equity return assumptions), a low interest rate environment, asset liability mismatches, severe underfunding (highlighted by accounting changes), ageing populations, financial scandals and loss of pension benefits, the whole defined benefit pension system in many countries is under assault. Once the rise in defined contribution schemes (and the uncertainty they inherently entail) as well as the scaling back of government pensions are also taken into consideration, people of all ages are rightly asking what retirement income they can rely on? Though the subject has been debated on many occasions, recent events have ensured that the topic of pension benefit security has once again become a focus for policy discussion.
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