IRELAND – The Irish government has introduced what it calls “cost-neutral” early retirement for civil servants.

It said it has introduced “a facility to allow public servants to retire (from age 50/55, as appropriate) with actuarially reduced superannuation benefits”. The facility would be made available immediately to serving staff.

The option will be extended to staff who resigned with an entitlement to preserved superannuation benefits as from April 1 this year.

The move was part of a set of reforms introduced this week by finance minister Charlie McCreevy. The changes complement those announced in this year’s budget and other changes - which increased to the minimum pension age to 65 and removed the compulsory retirement age for most new entrants to the public service.

"Today's announcement is a further significant element in the modernisation and reform of the public service which I have progressed significantly in my years as Minister for Finance,” McCreevy said.

“These further pension reforms continue the process of modernising and improving the public service pension system for both existing and future public servants.”

The department of finance says a pensions website will go live before the end of the month which will provide information to members of civil service pension schemes.

And there is a new calculation formula for the integration between social insurance and public service pensions. The government said this would “boost the aggregate retirement income of lower-paid public servants”.

McCreevy said: "These enhanced arrangements will represent a significant improvement for lower paid public servants, delivering improved pensions to many.”

Earlier this month Social Affairs Minister Mary Coughlan was quoted as saying the government may consider making it compulsory for employees to take out private pensions.