Liabilities of Dutch pension funds could decrease as a result of rising mortality, consultancy Sprenkels & Verschuren has said.

The trend of higher mortality in the Netherlands had continued during the first quarter of 2018, the company said, following mortality figures from the previous few years that were also higher than predicted.

The trend has also been observed elsewhere in Europe.

According to Daan Kleinloog, partner at the consultancy, pension funds’ coverage ratios could rise by 0.5 percentage points.

For decades, pension funds have had to continually increase provisions because of improvements in life expectancy.

Kleinloog said that in particular the mortality of elderly women had increased significantly since January, with death rates of those aged over 80 20% higher than expected. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) has suggested that higher mortality was linked to a flu epidemic last winter.

The consultant said that, if the high first-quarter figures were to continue for the rest of the year, it was plausible that mortality rates could exceed the predictions for the entire year by 3.5%.

The mortality rates not only affect pension funds’ liabilities, but also the retirement age for the Dutch state pension (AOW). If life expectancy improvements slow down, the AOW age will not be raised from its current level of 67 years and three months.

Kleinloog said that the AOW age could not go down if longevity were to decrease.

In September, the Dutch Actuarial Society (AG) will issue new mortality tables for the next two years, based on the figures up to 2018.

Kleinloog said: “If their calculation method is to remain unchanged, the rise of life expectancy will be lower than in previous prognoses.”

Recently, data from the UK’s Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) showed that improvements in mortality rates had been close to zero since 2011, after improving 2.6% annually between 2000 and 2010.

In January, a report from consultancy LCP said that liability risk transfer deals, such as buyouts, in the UK were becoming more affordable in part because of stalling improvements in life expectancy.

Last year, consultancy group Libera indicated that applying the CMI’s data could slice between 2.5% and 3.5% off liabilities in Swiss Pensionskassen.

Contrary to the model used by the federal statistical office, the CMI incorporates regular adjustments to the increase of longevity. The standard tables, used by all Swiss pension funds, project an unbroken upward trend.