Ireland’s pensions supervisor has revealed the number of defined benefit (DB) schemes continuing in the country fell by 6% over the last year, but that funding levels had improved.

In its latest set of annual statistics on DB schemes, the Irish Pensions Authority said the number of continuing DB schemes subject to the funding standard was 526 on 31 March this year, compared with 558 a year before.

The number of schemes meeting that standard increased over the course of the 2021/22 year, to encompass 89% of schemes at the end of this March, up from 80% in March 2021, the watchdog announced on Friday.

The statistics, compiled from an analysis of the most recent annual actuarial data returns (AADRs) received for relevant schemes, showed total assets had been valued at €73.7bn at the end of March, up from €70.5bn at the same point in 2021.

Overall, the DB schemes had a surplus of €8.8bn this March, up from €6.3bn the year before.

But in its review of 2021 statistics, the Pensions Authority said: “While this year’s report does indicate an overall improvement in funding levels compared to previous reports, it should be noted that, due to the time lags involved in AADR submissions, the report does not include the effects of the recent increased bond yields and stock market losses.”

The data also provide a picture of overall asset allocation of Irish DB pension funds between the end of March and 12 months before.

The most noticeable change over that period is an increase in the total allocation to “other bonds” to 11.9% from 9.8%, while the total allocation to EU sovereign bonds slipped to 33.7% from 35.3%, the data showed.

Equities declined slightly within Irish DB portfolios as a whole, with this type of exposure falling to 23.8% from 24.5%.

Meanwhile, the asset category of “other” – which the authority said included private equity, LDI, absolute return funds, infrastructure, commodities and annuities – remained broadly stable between the years at 23.3% compared to 23.2% in 2020.

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