NETHERLANDS – The Dutch central bank says the public is finding it hard to accept change to the pension system – and that is little awareness of future pension provision.

“The Dutch public has difficulty in reconciling itself to measures which detract from the current pension system,” De Nederlandsche Bank said in its latest quarterly review.

“The general preference is to pay a higher premium now, and so be able to enjoy the current arrangements on retirement. Individual awareness of pension provisions is also lacking: some 65% have no idea how much pension they can expect to draw at the age of 65.”

The DNB is in the process of merging with the PVK pension and insurance regulator.

Meanwhile, the Dutch labour union federation FNV has put forward what it calls an alternative to the government’s plans to curb early retirement.

The Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging has issued a 17-page response to the government’s 2004 budget plan last week in which it said it would scrap early-retirement tax breaks. That decision has been condemned by the Dutch pension fund industry.

The FNV is proposing a more flexible approach to careers. FNV vice chairman Kitty Roozemond says the core of the plan is “choice, freedom and certainty”. Under the plan, employees would get abundant opportunities for work, care and education.

The FNV has said that it wants to see “major changes to the planned social and economic measures; otherwise, public resistance and major campaigns are inevitable. Hardest hit by the government’s new cutbacks will be ordinary people of all ages”.

“The government’s plans to make early retirement more difficult or even completely impossible are unacceptable,” the FNV says. “They will lead to a very sharp drop in purchasing power for almost all workers, and particularly in sectors with heavy, physically demanding occupations more people than ever will end up on unemployment or invalidity benefit.”

“Some of the measures in the package go against the fundamental freedom of collective bargaining. In the public sector the unions must be able to negotiate freely.” The FNV says it is “always ready to talk” but that the government is making no effort at dialogue.