IRELAND - There was a 37% increase in the number of people opening Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) in 2006, according to new data from Irish pensions regulator, the Pensions Board.

Nevertheless, Mary Hutch, head of information and training at the Pensions Board, branded the level of private pension savings among individuals in Ireland as inadequate.

"In 2003 when we started the National Pensions Awareness Campaign pension awareness levels stood at 60%," she told IPE. "By 2006 this had risen to 87% and this coincided with a gradual shift in pensions take-up. But it's still not at the levels we would like."

Hutch added: "When we produced our National Pensions Policy Initiative report in 1998 we set the target coverage at 70% of the workforce aged over 30. That age cohort now has a coverage rate of 61%, so it's improved but it's still not near the target rate."

A PRSA is a personal pension plan where the contributions are tax deductible and the investment return is tax exempt.

The data since the start of PRSAs in 2003 indicates that 67% of contributors are aged between 25 and 44.