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Policy issues concerning Pension

The Pensions Commission completed its public consultation with a webinar on Wednesday, 21st April 2021. Bizarrely removed from the remit of the Pensions Commission is the Government's commitment to a system of automatic enrolment, a costly mechanism of increasing private pension coverage, subsidised by the State that will obviously have an impact on policy reform relating to the State pension as it has in other countries. Social Justice Ireland has previously published A Universal State Social Welfare Pension, an analysis of Ireland’s pension system and a fully costed proposal for the introduction of a Universal Pension in Ireland based on residency, not social insurance contributions. A better, and more equitable, use of public funds.

The establishment of the Commission on Pensions is welcome, but rather than being restricted to examining the future of the State Pension Age, the Commission should also look into expanding eligibility of the State Social Welfare Pension, and examine the fairness of pension-related tax breaks.

Ireland has an increasingly ageing population and it is imperative, both from the perspective of the individual and the supporting structures, that ageing in place becomes the default approach.

Government should increase in core social welfare rates of €7 per week in Budget 2021 and set a three-year target for Government to reach the benchmark of 27.5 per cent of average earnings.  In the forthcoming Budget Government should also complete the equalisation of Jobseeker’s rates for young people under 26, introduce a cost of disability allowance and introduce a universal state pension.

A new report from the Occupational Pensions Stakeholder Group (OPSG) provides an excellent analysis of the gender gap in pensions and provides advice on practices to reduce it. However, a universal state social welfare pension, with entitlement no longer based around labour market connectivity, would be the biggest step towards gender pension equality.

The current State Pension system deprives many people who have spent their lives in caring roles of financial security in their old age. These are people society should be rewarding, not penalising. With the new Programme for Government committing to the proposed Auto Enrolment Plan, an opportunity to increase the fairness of the Irish pension system is being missed, and at a substantial financial cost.

Last week, the Central Statistics Office published the results of its annual Pensions Survey. Much of the reaction suggested that things would be much better if private pension coverage in Ireland was higher than it is. However given its expense, and the way the benefits accrue mainly to the better off, we're not so sure. Here's the counter argument....

As the DEASP announces some key design features of its proposed Automatic Enrolment pension scheme, our analysis suggests that AE represents poor value for money, with minimal benefit to the State unless the long-term plan is to run down the value of the State pension and force people to rely on their private savings.

Pension-related tax reliefs are an expensive means of subsidising retirement savings for the better off, with little financial benefit to the State. The current system has a very high fiscal cost, yet is currently failing to meet its targets in relation to coverage and income adequacy. In this article, we show that the arguments in favour of continuing this perverse incentive system do not stack up. There is no fiscal benefit to the exchequer in either the short or the long term.

Social Justice Ireland makes the case for an increase in core social welfare rates of €9 per week for single people in Budget 2020 to ensure the welfare benchmark is maintained at the Pre-Budget Forum in Dublin Castle.