BELGIUM- The Belgian government is planning reform to the state pensions system in an attempt to increase employees’ access to occupational schemes. The reforms would open up the opportunity of saving in industry funds to over 500,000 private-sector workers.

Tony Ossenblok, adviser at the Belgian Association of pension funds, is convinced that companies and industries will be interested in establishing schemes due largely to fiscal advantages offered by the government as an incentive.

Responsibility for the establishment of the industry-related pension funds will fall on individual committees comprising an equal number of employers and employees.

Economists are also welcoming reforms to the state-run system, which they say is outdated in contrast to its European counterparts. The most recent figures show Belgium to have only e35bn under management in industry-related pension funds (e23bn of which is in group insurance). Neighbouring Holland has roughly e400bn by comparison.

Without the reforms, economists say that the cost of the state pension scheme could increase by as much as 3.4% of GDP annually between 2010 and 2030.

Reforms are not expected in the near future, however. Legislative difficulties are delaying the government’s plans, and the anticipated start date of January 2003 has been forced back. “Until laws are properly in place, the schemes will have to wait”, says Ossenblok.