NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government has warned that ageing society will put the Netherlands’ traditional solidarity “to the test”.

“A strong economy is essential for employment and prosperity,” said Queen Beatrix, presenting the government’s budget agenda in her annual speech to the upper and lower houses of parliament. “In an ageing society, pensions, care and other social programmes must be sustained by a smaller working population. This will put our solidarity to the test.”

Meanwhile, the Dutch Association of Industry-wide Pension Funds, the VB, said the cabinet’s pension proposals – leaked to the press last week – take no regard for stressful occupations or the rewards of solidarity.

“In effect the cabinet is rendering the collective accrual of pre-pension entitlements impossible,” the VB said in a response statement. “That means the final breakdown of solidarity between those employees who are willing and able to work longer and those who are unable to continue in work until they are 65 because of the nature of their occupations.”

It said the cabinet’s proposals “mean all forms of pension before the age of 65 would be eradicated” – and that they make no allowance for more than normally stressful occupations.

And it argued that the ‘lifestyle’ savings (levensloop) scheme “results in reduced benefits to the general public because the cabinet has opted for an individual model”.

It says a collective scheme - allowing room for individual preferences - would produce higher benefits.