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Auto-enrolment scheme can't be put off any longer

PLANS to do something about the fact that one million private sector workers have no pensions have been around for some time.

But a government-commissioned report due out on Monday is set to inject some urgency, and no little controversy, into the project.

In March 2010, the Fianna Fail-led administration unveiled plans for auto-enrolment into a private pension for those over the age of 22. This was a key recommendation of the National Pensions Framework.

The report looked at ways to ensure workers had an adequate retirement income without putting more pressure on the already stretched state finances.

Next year was set as the date for auto-enrolment.

Anyone who did not already have an occupational pension would automatically be enrolled in one.

They would have to contribute to it, on top of the 4pc PRSI. Their employers and the State would also contribute. Those who really did not want to be in the plan could opt out at certain dates.

This model is used in New Zealand, with a similar scheme introduced in Britain last October. Australians have had a compulsory pension scheme since 1992.

The minister with responsibility for pensions, Joan Burton, is pushing ahead with an auto-enrolment scheme here.

The plan, up to now, was to allow those who wanted to the option of getting out. Now the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has put a spanner in the works.

Ms Burton will find it hard to turn her back on its key recommendation that there should be a compulsory auto-enrolment scheme – though the bar on opt-outs will make the new scheme seem like a tax.

But she can't indefinitely delay introducing some form of an auto-enrolment scheme if today's workers are to have a decent retirement tomorrow.

Some hard choices will have to be made.

Irish Independent