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Active membership in UK occupational pensions continues to fall

UK - Active membership of UK occupational pension schemes fell again last year, while the number of people receiving pensions in payment from the schemes continued to rise, according to new data.

In 2011, the number of active members of workplace pension schemes - those currently accruing benefits - fell to 8.2m from 8.3m the year before, having declined steadily almost every year from 11.1m people in 1983, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed in its 2011 Occupational Pension Schemes Survey.

The number of members with pensions in payment, however, rose to 9.2m last year, up from 9m in 2010 and 5m in 1983.

Overall membership of occupational pension schemes was 27.2m, including people with preserved pension entitlements, with that figure having changed little since 2004.

Some of the drop in active membership of occupational pension schemes has been compensated for by the growth in the number of people contributing to group personal pensions, the ONS pointed out.

The private sector has seen the most marked fall in active membership, where numbers fell to 2.9m in 2011 from 6.5m in 1991 and 8.1m at the peak in 1967.

The ONS noted that the private sector contained a mix of defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) schemes, while all public sector workplace schemes were defined benefit.

Active membership of public sector schemes has risen over the same period even though some large schemes such as the Post Office and the BBC had been reclassified to the private sector from 2000, the ONS said.

In 2011, it estimated there were 5.3m active members in public sector schemes compared with 4.2m in 1991 and 5.5m at the peak in 1979.

Contribution rates to occupational pension schemes fell slightly last year in DC and career average schemes, but rose in DB schemes.

Member contributions decreased to 4.9% in DC schemes in 2011 from 5.1% the year before, and employer contributions fell to 14.2% from 15.8%.

In career average schemes, member contributions were unchanged at 5.4%, but contributions from employers slipped to 11.5% from 11.8%.

In DB schemes, member contributions rose to 2.8% from 2.7%, and employer contributions rose to 6.6% from 6.2%.

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