The FVPK, Austria’s pension fund association, has called on the government to include “mandatory pension plans” in negotiations on a general collective-bargaining agreement.

Earlier this week, federal chancellor Christian Kern, from the Social Democrats (SPÖ), presented plans for a “Generalkollektivvertrag” – a framework for minimum standards in labour and social law for companies.

While Kern has yet to win over the SPÖ’s coalition partner, the conservative ÖVP, the FVPK has welcomed his proposal, encouraging him to include mandatory pension plans in his plans.

Andreas Zakostelsky, chairman at the FVPK, said: “We would recommend the inclusion of a mandatory element in the ‘Generalkollektivvertrag’ and then allow each industry to set its own individual, more detailed framework.”

The vast majority of Austria’s 400,000-odd companies are organised into more than 800 collective-bargaining agreements (“Kollektivvertrag”) covering various industries and sectors.

Only 69 of those agreements include special arrangements to facilitate the establishment of pension funds, and only a handful include mandatory pension plans.

For 2016, preliminary statistics on Austria’s pension funds revealed an increased membership of 900,000 employees (including retirees), a 5.5% year-on-year increase.

In total, more than 4m people in Austria are either employees or self-employed, according to official statistics for 2015.

Of the 15,000 companies that have already set up an occupational pension fund, only a handful could be considered SMEs.

However, Zakostelsky said these smaller companies appeared to be catching up.

“Last year, more than 88% of new contracts came from the SME segment,” he said.

Over the last three years in particular, since the reform of the law governing occupational pensions (PKG), the FVPK had intensified its information campaign for SMEs.

Austrian pension funds returned 4.17% on average last year compared with 2.32% in 2015.

The average equity allocation stood at just under 30%, up from 28.2% the year previous.

The long-term average performance stands at 5.57% for the last five years and 5.53% for the last 26, since the first pension funds were first set up.