UK - Employee contributions to funded pension schemes reached £42.5bn (€47bn) in 2008, overtaking the rate of employer contributions for the first time in six years.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) pension trends series outlined the latest pension figures incorporated into the National Accounts, and how it impacts on GDP and the household saving ratio.

Data showed "social contributions" from employees into funded pension schemes - private sector occupational schemes, employer-sponsored group personal and stakeholder pensions and the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) - remained "fairly flat" in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In contrast, employer contributions grew quickly because of special deficit contributions, with the total doubling from £21.8bn in 2001 to £46.1bn in 2006. However, the total fell to £44.5bn in 2007 as some DB schemes moved into surplus, while the recession in 2008 saw employer contributions decrease further to £40.6bn.  The ONS attributed this fall to "increased pressure on employers' finances in the context of the recession".

Over the same period, employee contributions remained steady at around £23bn until 2004 before jumping to £39.4bn in 2007. Then by 2008 employee contributions reached £42.5bn - almost £2bn more than the total paid by employers. 

Meanwhile, figures showed employer contributions to unfunded pension schemes - public sector schemes including the civil service, armed forces, National Health Service (NHS) teachers, police and fire fighters - increased from £9.5bn in 2001 to £14.8bn in 2008. Employee contributions also more than doubled from £3.5bn to £7.5bn over the same period.

Additional data included in the report revealed the total value of household wealth held in private pension funds - based on assets held by insurance companies and pension schemes - rose from £1.6trn in 1999 to £2.2trn in 2007, equivalent to 155% of GDP. However in 2008 the value of assets held in life assurance and pensions slipped back to 31.8trn or 128% of GDP to reflect the fall in stock markets.

The figures in the national accounts for the liabilities of the main centrally administered unfunded public service pension schemes - excluding police and fire fighters - increased by around 30% between March 2006 and 2007 to £686.6bn, as a result of change sin accounting assumptions. However the total liabilities for these four main unfunded schemes - teachers, NHS, civil service and armed forces - decreased to £662.5bn following a further change in the discount rate.

Elsewhere, a second update in the pension trends series on pensions and labour force participation showed the average age of withdrawal from the labour market for women rose from 60.7 years in 1984 to 62.4 years in April-June 2009. For men, the average age peaked at 64.5 years in April-June 2008 and was unchanged for the same three-month period in 2009.

Between April and June a higher proportion of women were in employment after the state pension age (SPA), at 13%, compared to 10.2% of men. This is because a greater proportion of women are employed in the five years after SPA; 34.1% of women compared with 21.3% of men. However, the ONS added that the majority of both sexes working after SPA were in part-time employment, with 5.9% of men and 9.1% of women.

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