NETHERLANDS - Dutch employer and employee groups have backed findings presented yesterday by the Goudswaard Committee, claiming pension funds must scale down their ambitions and get members to accept increased risk, if they are to keep the pension system future-proof.

A joint statement issued by the main employers organisations MKB-Nederland and VNO-NCW agreed:  "The limits of pension costs have been reached. The pension system can only survive if we modernise arrangements and accept that pension benefits will increasingly depend on investment results."

In the employers' opinion, pension costs are already at a very high level and becoming unaffordable for companies, as suggested by the Committee. (See earlier IPE story: Pension funds must alter ambitions and risk - Dutch experts)

There are some disagreements about how officials should go about it, however, as FNV, the largest employee trade union, said it would prefer to see a tailor-made approach applied to individual pension funds, rather than the introduction of general measures which all must abide by.

"Since we have been proud for years that the Dutch pension system is rated among the best in the world, it is odd that the Goudwaard Committee is using this now as a reason for suggesting we could do with less," argued Peter Gortzak, vice chairman of the FNV.

According to the CNV union, the Goudwaard Committee is also too pessimistic in its prediction of a 30% rise in pension costs in the next 15 years, as it claimed "pension funds incur the lowest costs and achieve the highest returns".

The CNV also argued workers should also profit from the assets raised through investment returns, as employers will pay less in contributions once the official retirement age is raised.

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