More than 400,000 workers face another delay in the roll-out of a long-awaited national pension scheme due to “exceptional strain” caused by the pandemic.
The Government had planned to set up by 2022 an auto-enrolment scheme that has been promised for over 20 years.
But a Department of Social Protection spokesperson was unable to give a start date. He said the scheme would be gradually delivered in phases.
The aim of the scheme is to provide an extra income during retirement for at least 410,000 workers who would otherwise rely solely on a State pension.
“Although the Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018 to 2023 provided for the development and implementation of an automatic enrolment retirement savings system by 2022, the Programme for Government recognises the exceptional strain that both employers and employees are now under as a result of the Covid-19 emergency,” said a department spokesperson.
“Consequently, a phased introduction of the system is believed to be appropriate in the current situation.”
Previously, former social protection minister Regina Doherty said the only way the plan could be derailed was if there was “something earth-shattering” before 2022.
The chief executive at the Irish Association of Pension Funds, Jerry Moriarty, said key decisions on the design of the system still had to be finalised before Covid-19.
“I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that the target to deliver next year will be missed,” he said.
“It is important that the Government continues to work on this. It was always proposed to be a gradual introduction that will not have full impact for up to 10 years. Auto-enrolment is a key element to addressing our ageing population and we have to make sure it is introduced as soon as is practically possible.”
Social policy officer at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) Laura Bambrick said young, low-paid workers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic are most likely to have no workplace pension. “While disappointing and concerning that we are further delaying tackling income inadequacy for workers in retirement, Ictu acknowledges the extraordinary financial strain many workers and their employers are currently under,” she said.
She said the union body has concerns that if implemented next year, the measure would result in more workers opting out than in normal times.
“The delay is far from ideal. But we only get one chance to get auto-enrolment right,” she said. “Better to delay until people are feeling more financially secure.”
The introduction of the auto-enrolment scheme has been promised since the 1990s. It aims to address the low proportion of workers with occupational and personal pensions to supplement the state pension.
The department said in a statement that matching contributions will be made by workers and employers, and workers’ contributions will be rolled out over a decade. There will be a “state incentive” and an opt-out provision.
Read the original article here.