IRELAND - The number of employers that have closed their defined benefit schemes has risen from 12% to 39% in the last five years, a new study commissioned by the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) reveals.

The number of firms just offering a defined contribution scheme has increased at the same rate.

According to research by the UCD Michael Smurfit School of Business, 24% of employers  currently only offer DC schemes, compared with 8% in 2002.

Conversely, only 37% only offer a defined benefit plan compared with 67% when the study was last carried out.

In total about 50% of pension holders in the private sector are now members of DC schemes.

"The findings emphasise that the responsibility and risk of securing an adequate income in retirement is increasingly moving to employees," Patrick Burke, chairman of the IAPF, commented on the second day of the IAPF conference in Dublin.

"But our study suggests that many are not fully aware of the extent of this major change in the pensions landscape or, at an individual level, of its implications for them personally."

Burke wants to ensure that all employees will in future have the same flexible pension benefits that are currently enjoyed by the self employed, proprietary directors and PRSA holders.

Members of DC schemes  must currently buy an annuity on retirement and do not have the option of keeping the money invested in a so-called Approved Retirement Fund (ARF).

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest consultation on Ireland that it welcomed the forthcoming Green Paper on pension policy.

Directors of the organisation said they would like to see a review of the state pensionable age and the level of contributions to the National Pensions Reserve Fund, as well as further incentives for private savings.

The Irish government sets aside one percent of GNP annually as a contribution to the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF).