GERMANY - Pension agents in small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) are not doing enough to pique interest in second-pillar pension schemes and need expert advice, according to HR representatives.

As little as 40% of all German SMEs offer their employees occupational pension schemes, and one of the main reasons is the lack of interest among staff, several HR representatives noted in an ad hoc survey by German consultancy auxilion during an HR fair in Cologne.

However, respondents to the survey also put part of the blame on themselves and their colleagues responsible for pension-related questions in these companies.

Nearly 70% said pension agents should do more to inform employees about tax and other advantages of an occupational pension scheme.

This mirrors a recent survey that showed a lack of information on the subject of retirement provision in companies.

In Germany, companies are obliged to put a pension scheme in place if employees demand it. However, 76% of the surveyed HR representatives added that advice from external pension experts would be needed due to the complexity of the issue.

Around 44% saw administrative hurdles as main the obstacles for creating a pension scheme in a company.

Overall, 85% of the surveyed noted that second-pillar schemes would become more important in the struggle for key workers and qualified staff.

Further, 75% said the importance of occupational pension schemes would increase, mainly because retirement provision from the first and third pillars would prove insufficient. 

In other news, a survey by German asset management house Union Investment has found that half of Germans with a third-pillar Riester contract are missing out on state subsidies.

Most of them are not even filing for subsidies, Union pointed out in the study, which was conducted with academics such as Bernd Raffelhüschen.

Raffelhüschen said: "People should make use of the possibility to have a 'standing order' for subsidies, and the contributions have to be adjusted to changes in the income."

Many people are only receiving a part of the possible subsidies because they are not making the necessary minimum contribution.

Contrary to the belief that lower earners might be unable to afford the Riester contributions, Union's survey showed it was mostly higher earners missing out on the subsidies, while people with lower incomes appeared more capable of getting state aid.

Hans Joachim Reinke, chairman at Union Investment, said: "The government could support Riester savers by telling them exactly how much they are short of the necessary contributions for a full subsidy.

"And savers should be given the opportunity to pay the missing sum for the expired year until a certain deadline."