FRANCE - The number of French companies offering employee savings vehicles continues to grow, and more and more workers are opting for the collective retirement saving plan PERCO, according to the French Asset Management Association (AFG).

In a recent study, the AFG found that more small and medium-sized businesses have introduced savings vehicles for their employees, with an increase of 6% in 2010.

In total, 243,000 SMEs are now equipped.

According to the asset management association, the total amount in savings vehicles reached €13.3bn last year, mainly due to voluntary contributions brought by employees.

French workers have a preference for PERCO plans, in which they can pay sums from profit-sharing and incentive schemes and make voluntary payments.

The PERCO, which was introduced by the Fillon Law in 2003 to support retirement savings, has recorded a strong increase in 2010, with the number of businesses offering PERCOs increasing by more than 18%.

In terms of investment, assets under management in employee savings vehicles has also recorded a growth, from €88.8bn in 2009 to €88.6bn at the end of 2010, with most of this amount being invested in equities.

In total, 12.2m of workers now contribute to saving vehicles, which are seen as a complement of the public and private pension pillars.

Since 2003, the French have access to a wide number of individual schemes, including life insurance, securities and individual savings products such as the plan d'épargne retraite populaire (PERP).

For both the PERP and the PERCO, the funds invested cannot be taken out before retirement and are paid as an annuity.