IRELAND - The government today presented the long-awaited green paper on pensions including issues like scheme funding, retirement age and work flexibility - but giving no recommendations.

Within the paper's 278 pages, the government notes various options for reforming the Irish pension system, including mandatory and soft mandatory approaches to second-pillar pensions as well as references to the UK's auto-enrolment regulation.

"I have an open mind on how the pensions system should develop in the future and I look forward to hearing the views of all interested parties on how we should proceed," Martin Cullen, minister for Social and Family Affairs, noted at the presentation.

He added the government did not want to favour any option prior to the conclusion of the consultation.

To ensure high participation in the consultation process, the minister said he "intended to leave it open until mid-2008".

"This quite long consultation period is good," Jerry Moriarty, director of policy at the Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF), told IPE.  It gives proper time for proper debate and makes sure there will not be any rushed decisions."

He noted the green paper was "pretty much what the IAPF had expected" and commended it as a "very comprehensive" document which "covers everything we would have expected it to cover".

Prior to the launch of the paper, the IAPF had suggested the creation of more industry-wide pension funds, similar to the Dutch model. In the green paper an annex gives details on various pension systems in other countries including the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.
Apart from industry representatives Cullen wants to see comments from members of the general public as well but Moriarty thinks this might be a problem.

"One of the problems with pensions and one of the reasons there is a green paper is that it is quite hard to engage the ordinary person in the street in the debate," he explained.

However, plans to have conferences and regional events on the subject "will hopefully generate some interest," Moriarty added.

Events like the National Pensions Week were very good to raise awareness but "the problem is turning awareness into action," he explained.

Moriarty announced the IAPF will itself prepare various papers on different issues from the green paper "to further the debate".