Thankfully, we are living longer! This, however, presents a huge challenge for any country’s retirement strategy. Back in 1950, there were 7.2 people aged 20–64 for every person of 65 or over in the OECD countries. This is projected to reduce to 1.8 by 2050. The math is stark. To fund a state pension which pays modern day equivalents to people retiring at 65 will soon become an impossible task. Apart from increasing the already huge tax burden to pay for pensions, there are really only two ways of addressing the problem. One, the retirement age needs to increase and, two, people will need to have private pensions or other incomes to supplement their state pension.
Auto Enrolment addresses the latter. It imposes a legal obligation on employers to enrol their employees in pension schemes and to contribute to these pensions. A deduction is made from the employee’s pay plus the employer contributes as well. Auto Enrolment began in the UK for very large employers in 2012 and is being rolled out to include all employers by 2017. The combined minimum deduction and contribution of 2% is designed to ease employees and employers into the concept but this combined level rises to 8% by 2018.
It should be noted that employee participation is optional. The employer must enrol them but they may subsequently opt out. Therefore, employees who feel that they are otherwise covered (e.g. through rental property and/or other investments) do not have to partake in Auto Enrolment.
The various rules surrounding Auto Enrolment and the structures that need to be put in place are numerous and represent a major undertaking for government, employers and pension companies.
Auto Enrolment (or similar) is an absolute necessity and it is somewhat surprising that Irish plans in this regard are not more advanced.