UK - Self-administered pension schemes registered £70bn (€78.9bn) in income last year - close to the 2006 peak - largely as a result of additional employer contributions.

As a result, mainly private sector defined benefit schemes recovered from an aggregate £208.6bn deficit to £48.4bn surplus in February this year, according to pensions data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The increase in contributions to private sector pension schemes contrasts with the £4bn year-on-year fall to £82bn in 2008 as a result of the drop-off in employer contributions.

However, employer contributions rose sharply as the UK came out of recession, from £46.6bn in 2009 to £56.8bn in 2010.

Average employer contribution rates in 2008 were 16.6% of salary in defined benefit schemes and 6.1% of salary in defined contribution schemes.

Meanwhile, employee contributions to funded pension schemes fell from
£43.7bn in 2008 to £39.4bn in 2009 before increasing slightly to £40.2bn last year.

Defined benefit schemes still dominate the UK market, accounting for 55% of all assets held by UK pension schemes, according to the ONS.

UK pension schemes accounted for £1.9trn in assets under management in 2009 - the period covered by the data available.

Self-administered (defined benefit) pension schemes accounted for £1trn of this figure.

A combination of occupational and personal pensions administered by insurance companies accounted for a further £697bn.

Within the broader investment market, pension schemes accounted for 77% of investment in funds, 43% of investment in UK government bonds and 39% of UK listed companies.

In other news, trustees of soap-maker PZ Cussons' pension fund have signed up to make the £140m (€157.9m) defined benefit (DB) scheme self-sufficient following a strategic review of its risks.

The trustees have hired Mercer to help them with a long-term 'dynamic de-risking' programme. The group has been scouting options to de-risk its legacy liabilities since it closed its DB scheme in 2008.

Historically, pension schemes have tended to adopt linear de-risking, which is based on quarter-by-quarter tweaking of allocations to return-seeking assets. Dynamic de-risking, in contrast, involves constant - in this case, daily - monitoring of the scheme's funding levels.

Mercer partner Amit Popat said: "From the employer's perspective, the pension fund is corporate debt. If you can put schemes on a strong financial footing and pay out liabilities at low risk, everyone's pleased - the scheme sponsor and the trustees.

"This isn't about restoring a pension fund to financial health overnight by reducing the portfolio of growth assets from 60% to 40%. In this case, it is a 15-year horizon with annual reviews.

"Within that, there are opportunities to bank the gains when it's looking healthy, making the scheme less susceptible to volatility."

Popat said the consultancy was seeing more demand for de-risking services    for DB schemes of all sizes.