IRELAND – The introduction of auto-enrolment would likely be the most politically acceptable outcome of the OECD's forthcoming review of the Irish pension system, the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) has said.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the review on Monday – which minister for social protection Joan Burton previously said would trigger "major" reforms – IAPF chief executive Jerry Moriarty said he was uncertain what the OECD would recommend.
"Whether its auto-enrolment or compulsion," he told IPE, "it's not going to be any time soon because of the situation of the Irish economy.
"From our point of view, what we see being as more important is that you get people to save for retirement," he said.
"How you feel you need to do that is almost of lesser importance, but compulsion is certainly a much bigger political ask."
Edward Whitehouse, head of pension policy analysis at the OECD, previously argued that auto-enrolment was the "sensible third way" between a voluntary system and compulsion, potentially indicating the tone of the report.
Moriarty viewed auto-enrolment as the most politically viable approach.
"Certainly from a political point of view, it's probably more acceptable to bring something like auto-enrolment in, rather than pure compulsion," he said.
However, he added that he believed the government would aim to implement the OECD's recommendations – whatever form they might take.
"Having asked the OECD to come in and do a report on the Irish system, it might be a little bit difficult to go against the recommendation, if it's a very strong one," he said.
Moriarty conceded that compulsion would be easier from a regulatory perspective – removing the requirement to monitor if companies are auto-enrolling employees and their workforce opts out voluntarily, or because they are under pressure to do so.
However, he warned there had so far not been any studies on the impact of compulsory savings in Ireland.
"If you're taking a large chunk of money and forcing them into a certain type of savings, that obviously has a impact on the cost of labour, GDP, employment and unemployment," he said.
"The government needs to weigh up all those issues and see what the balance is."
Brendan Kennedy, head of the Pensions Board, told IPE in March that compulsion would be "easier" from a regulatory perspective, but stressed that any decision to introduce such a system was a political one.
He noted at the time that any auto-enrolment system would increase the regulatory burden, and that such a step would in turn increase costs for providers.
But he also stressed that the most important issue to consider in any such reform was allowing for sufficient time to implement the changes.
"We'd need to make sure the infrastructure, the regulation, the public understanding, the institutional arrangements are all in place, so we have to make sure we allow the time," he said.
"I'm confident we will have learned enough from other countries to realise the complexity and to increase our chances of doing it right."