Dutch pharmacists' scheme to reduce accrual and raise contributions

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The Dutch pension fund for pharmacists (SPOA) plans to reduce its annual pensions accrual and increase contributions.

The decision was supported by the occupational association BPOA, and was aimed at maintaining the scheme’s current pension arrangements.

According to the scheme, the current premium level of 22.7% of the pensionable salary was insufficient to finance the agreed annual accrual of 1.3%.

Low interest rates had required a contribution increase to maintain the accrual, SPOA said. Failing to adjust the pension plan would disproportionally benefit current active participants.

In the opinion of BPOA, which is responsible for the pharmacists’ pension arrangements, a combination of a contribution rise and accrual reduction was the most balanced approach in respect to all groups of participants.

Its proposal provided for an accrual reduction from 1.3% to 1.2% of the pensionable salary. This means an annual drop in accrual from €479 to €442.

At the same time, BPOA said it wanted to increase the contribution from 22.7% to 26.8%. It said it had also factored in that tax-facilitated accrual must now be based on an official retirement age of 68 rather than 67.

SPOA and BPOA said younger participants would be the most affected by the proposed adjustments, with a 25-year old losing 6% at retirement if his state pension (AOW) was also taken into account.

In this situation, a 45-year old worker could expect to receive 98% of his or her pension, relative to the current situation.

The pension fund and its occupational association said that merely decreasing annual pensions accrual would have required a reduction from 1.3% to 1%.

On the other hand, solely raising the contribution would have meant an increase from 22.7% to approximately 30%.

In 2015, BPOA announced that it was looking into the option of a merger with PMA, the €2.8bn sector scheme for pharmacy staff, for benefits of scale.

However, the organisation failed to reach an agreement with PMA earlier this year, and said it would continue independently.

Since 2011, the pharmacists’ scheme had to carry out four successive rights cuts of 5%, 7%, 6.8% and 4.6%. At August-end, its funding stood at 98.5%.

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