ITALY – Welfare minister Roberto Maroni has launched a 21- strong working group to monitor pension expenses and the sustainability of the 2004 pension reform.

The group is led by under-secretary Alberto Brambilla and features senior civil servants from the treasury, welfare end economy ministries. It is also advised by academics.

Its role is to “provide the government facts in order to make it possible to evaluate in the next decades the sustainability of the reform” Maroni said. The group will remain in office for four years.

The experts are expected to provide advice on whether the government should extend beyond 2007 the payment of a 33% tax-free bonus for pension-age people who carry on working.

At the moment only private sector workers are eligible for the bonus, although there has been talk of extending it to the public sector too. According to the reform, the bonus will be paid only until December 2007.

“Strangely, this group includes experts who in the last 10 years have stood out for criticising the public pension system and for sponsoring a private pension system,” Adriano Musi, national secretary for pensions at the Uil trade union, told IPE.

Uil, together with the major national unions, will meet the cabinet on July 27 to discuss the final draft of the implementation decree, approved by the cabinet earlier this month.

The draft, which maps out the implementation of the pension reform, has been already presented to the social partners, which are to present their feedback by Friday.

The key aspect in the decree is the allocation of the severance pay, known as Tfr, to pension funds. It is estimated that it would inject up to €13bn a year into the second pillar.

The government has pledged €17m to pay for an information campaign to educate workers on the reform.

The campaign should start in October, when negotiation between government and the social partners are due to terminate.