UK - Employer contributions to occupational schemes have risen almost 50% to £8.3bn (€12bn), according to a survey by Incomes Data Services.

It is by far the highest ever increase since the survey began in 1996 and probably indicates the largest annual increase in more than 20 years, IDS said.

IDS surveyed 284 occupational schemes and found that the total contributions they received from their sponsoring employers rose 49.7% to £8.3m from £5.5bn.

IDS gleaned the data from the latest available annual reports published by occupational pension schemes during the last six months of 2004. IDS pensions service editor Helen Sudell called the rise "pretty staggering".

Elsewhere, the Confederation of British Industry has said that the UK cannot afford a flat-rate citizens' pension.

The employers' group, in its submission to the Turner review, called on the government to commit now to reform of the state pension system. But it said: "It is wrong to think a much higher pension, paid to all regardless of working history, is a more realistic solution."

The unions - in their Turner submission – have argued that compulsion must be part of any solution to the UK's pensions crisis.

The Trades Union Congress called for a new compulsory savings regime to be run by a body modelled on the Low Pay Commission. The body would involve unions, employer representatives and independent experts.

Meanwhile, Karen Parry has been named as head of compliance at the Pensions Trust - a multi-employer occupational pension schemes for the charity sector - following the retirement of John Coy.