Sunday 25 June 2017

Large differences in contributions of 300,000 workers

Just a third of private sector workers have a pension. (Stock photo)
Just a third of private sector workers have a pension. (Stock photo)

Anne-Marie Walsh

The contributions made by State workers varies considerably.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform does not keep a centralised database of the arrangements that exist for the 300,000-strong workforce.

However, figures provided in relation to the civil service show 13,852 workers who joined before April 6, 1995, do not contribute towards their personal scheme but pay 1.5pc of their pay towards a survivors' scheme. They have a minimum retirement age of 60.

A further 10,814 who joined after that date, and can also retire at 60, pay 3pc of their pensionable remuneration, which includes wages and allowances but excludes overtime, towards their scheme, plus 3.5pc of a lower portion of their salary.

For 5,628 who joined after April 2004, the contribution is the same but they cannot retire until 65, and the 4,101 hired after January 1, 2013, make the same contribution but have a minimum pension age of 66. This will increase to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028 in line with the State pension age. The department said the average contribution was about 4.6pc.

The debate that will take place at talks on a pay deal following the Lansdowne Road deal, which runs out next year, is likely to centre on what portion of the pension levy should remain in place.

The level of contributions being made as a portion of the value of the benefits received will be closely examined. Currently, unions and the Government have actuaries examining the complex arrangements.

They include the fact that some staff, including gardaí, get accelerated pensions, where benefits accumulated much quicker, and they can retire earlier than their colleagues.

Although a 5pc worker contribution would be a norm in many private sector schemes, it is widely felt they do not get anything close to the level of benefits.

With full service, the State-guaranteed pensions are worth half of a worker's final salary and a lump sum of one-and-a-half times their pay.

In addition, pensions increase when someone in their old job gets a pay rise.

However, a 'single' scheme set up in 2013 means that new recruits' pensions are based on their average earnings during their career rather than their final wage packet.

The Government pays for the pensions on a pay-as-you-go basis from taxes or borrowings. In contrast, defined contribution rather than defined benefit schemes have become the norm in the private sector.

Last year's average public sector pension was worth €20,367, but Irish Life said the average annual payment in its defined contribution schemes was €5,332. Most significantly of all, just a third of private sector workers have a pension.

Irish Independent

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