Pension reform should be ongoing - OECD official

EUROPE - Pension reform should not been seen as something static but as an ongoing process of revision, says a top pensions official at the OECD.

Monika Queisser, principal administrator on pensions and other social policy issues at the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation, told IPE: “Pension reforms are not something politicians should do and then sit back.”

“It's more like doing them, then checking and seeing what was done wrong and re-doing it," she said on the sidelines of a conference in Milan.

But pensions were "politically and emotionally charged issues" and while politicians are shy of tackling pensions, for fear on alienating voters, people eye reformers with suspicion, she said.

"Some people think 'Why do they want to change, what have they done wrong?'" she said at ‘Public and Private Pension System: New Challenges and Strategies for the Welfare State in Europe’.

"The importance of pension system parameters is not widely understood among the public,” Queisser observed. In some countries workers were "disenfranchised" from jobs, and relish the change of retiring, however long they live.

The "culture of early retirement" however does not seem to affect Japan and Iceland, where by law workers retire at 67 but tend to stay longer.

Another common feature among the OECD countries is the low degree of pension diversification, a problem that does not affect the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Sweden has come across throughout the first part of the conference as being able to tackle the pension provision problem. The initiative to send workers the famous orange envelopes to keep them posted on their pension provision should be imitated by other countries, Queisser said.

She said the idea is a "transparent and efficient" way of encouraging people to save for their old age.

The conference was organised by the European Training Centre for Social Affairs and Public Health and Macros Research.

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