With better living standards and expanding economy, it is without doubt that Irish people are now living longer and we have a much healthier society. At the same time, we need to face the fact that with the Irish population inevitably getting older, there is the prospect that senior citizens will have to stay in employment long after they have passed retirement age. It is therefore absolutely vital to address the funding of the Irish pension system now if we want our pensioners to be well-protected in the future.
To tackle this issue, Brian Hayes MEP has called on Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty to start work on the introduction of an automatic enrolment pension system, whereby all Irish private sector employees would be automatically enrolled into a pension scheme. As Mr Hayes stated, "a road map needs to be put in place for the introduction of an auto-enrolment system for all Irish businesses. The Cabinet needs to make it a priority to ensure that auto-enrolment is put into Irish Law by 2021. This is something that can be done through cross-party agreement."
In 2012, the UK introduced an automatic enrolment system which is working well and providing long-term sustainability. Automatic enrolment systems have also been introduced in Australia and New Zealand, and similar systems exist in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. These countries are recognised as world leaders in pensions.
Mr Hayes has suggested that Ireland should create its own system, whereby every employee will be automatically enrolled into a pension scheme, into which they should contribute at least 1 per cent of their monthly salary, to be matched by their employer.
Mr Hayes also added, “In Ireland we are far too dependent on our state pension system. We have a very low take up of workplace pension schemes. Less than 40% of Irish workers are covered by a workplace pension scheme. The best way to deal with both of these problems is through an auto-enrolment system which reduces dependency on the state system and ensures people have additional pension pots built up.”
A recent global study called the ‘Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index’ has stated that Ireland's pension system is good but has serious sustainability problems into the future. Elsewhere, Mercer's report found that Ireland will increasingly struggle to afford the provision of a guaranteed pension for everyone, if the current pension system isn’t addressed.