90% of UK DB schemes now closed
UK - The first report of the Association of Consulting Actuaries' survey on pension trends has found that 87% - nearly nine out of 10 - UK DB schemes are now closed to new entrants. Of these, 18% are also closed to future accrual.
Moreover, further changes affecting existing members are likely, with a third of DB schemes still subject to review. Employers who responded to the survey said 39% of DB schemes were presently considering changes to future accrual, with 35% considering a move to career average, and 22% a move to a DC structure.
The survey covered 309 employers of all sizes, with pension scheme assets of over £138bn (€156bn), and was carried out in June and July 2009.
The survey found 76% of employers felt their employees were uncomfortable in taking on the investment, inflation and longevity risks inherent with DC schemes. And 81% felt employees were not capable of determining how they should manage DC saving.
Reflecting this concern, 77% of employers said that current legislation did not allow them to easily share investment, inflation and longevity risks with employees. A similar number (76%) said public policy should be more supportive of "middle way" designs offering more flexibility to employers.
According to the survey, combined employer and employee contributions into DB schemes now average 29.5% of total earnings, almost double those of 2002, when combined contributions averaged 15.8% of earnings.
In contrast, combined savings into DC schemes are running at around 10 to 11% of earnings, on average 1.5% of earnings above the level of 2002.
The survey also found that nine out of 10 DB schemes are in deficit, with average ongoing funding levels at 79%, an eight-point decline on two years ago.
However, only 22% of employers said their anticipated deficit recovery period was over ten years, compared with 29% two years ago.
Keith Barton, chairman, ACA, said: "This latest survey confirms all our worst fears about the loss of quality pension schemes and how this is now moving on to a phase where future benefits for existing members are likely to be pinned back as employers struggle to hold down costs within existing legislation."
Barton said: "If we are to preserve as much private sector DB provision as possible, the Government must act during 2010 to free up pension designs, so employers can better control DB costs while continuing to provide a more stable pension outcome than is possible with DC."