Pension figures spark concerns

Updated: 
PensionsConcerns over the pension savings crisis have been raised after official figures showed that employee membership of private sector defined benefit (DB) or final salary pension schemes has plummeted from more than a third 15 years ago to just 9%.

DB schemes promise to pay out a certain sum each year when people retire and tend to be based on the number of years they were in the scheme and their salary on retirement (final salary) or the career average wage while the worker was in the scheme.

But many have been shut and replaced by defined contribution (DC) schemes due to mounting running costs as people live for longer.


According to the ONS figures, employee membership of private sector DB schemes dropped from 34% in 1997 to just 9% by last year.

Meanwhile, the number of people contributing to personal pensions has also decreased, from 6.4 million in 2008/9 to six million in 2009/10.

The share of self-employed men working full-time in Britain who belong to a private pension scheme has also been in decline, from nearly two thirds in 1988/9 to just over a third by 2010.

ONS figures released earlier this year showed that the proportion of people in a workplace pension has fallen below half for the first time in at least 15 years. Just 48% of employees were in a scheme, compared with 55% when the records began in 1997.

In 2010 there were 8.3 million active members of occupational pension schemes, the lowest level since the 1950s.

The research comes ahead of the Government's landmark scheme to enrol automatically up to 10 million people into workplace pensions amid fears that people are not saving enough for their old age. The scheme starts this autumn with larger firms.

Joanne Segars, chief executive of the National Association of Pension Funds, said: "The private sector is going through a huge shift in its staff pensions, and even more change is on the way. Final salary deals were once the norm, but they are dwindling in number as they get closed down and replaced."

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