NETHERLANDS – Up to 65,000 members of pension funds for the self-employed, representing assets of around NLG30bn (e14bn), could end up paying an extra 30% a year in contributions following a dispute with the Dutch government over solidarity rules.

The funds, which came together last week under a new umbrella organisation, the Unie van Beroepspensioenfondsen (UvB), are fighting a rearguard action with the government over regulation to guarantee a set benefit and premium for both men and women.
While Holland’s industry-wide pension funds have agreed to the solidarity principle, the self-employed professional pension funds, which represent a range of professions from medical experts to musicians, say it is impossible for them to comply.

René Bastian, secretary of the UvB, comments:
“ In general, of course, we have nothing against solidarity between men and women, that’s obvious,” says Bastian.
“ We are saying that the solidarity between men and women is logical in the labour situation because labour conditions should be identical for both, but these people work on their own, and live in completely different legal surroundings,” he adds.

Due to demographic reasons UvB argues that it is difficult for the funds to give men and women identical benefits for identical premiums because women live longer.
Says Bastian: “ In an employee situation you can do this because there is also the employer who pays. In our situation where they are all individuals it is an impossible situation, so we’ve said that the solidarity rules have to be made to suit these professions.”

Hans Hoogervorst, state secretary for social affairs, however, has said that because of competition rules for the free market, the mandatory pension funds have to offer something that the market cannot offer. In the case of pension funds, Hoogervorst says this should be the solidarity element.
“ Hoogervorst has said that he is prepared to continue this regulation on two conditions.
“ Firstly, he wants to be sure that these organisations represent a large part, up to or at least 60% of the profession, and secondly that the premiums are same for men and women,” says a spokesperson for the ministry of social affairs.

If the member funds of the UvB do not comply, the government is threatening to close the funds to new members, making them into ‘sleeper’ funds, and leaving professionals to look for insurance contracts.

According to a UvB study, it would cost a self-employed professional 30% more to get an individual pension contract with an insurance company.
“ In general, if the government does that, it will cost the taxpayers an extra NLG150m each year, which is not acceptable,” says Bastian at the union.