40th NAPF Annual Survey tracks workplace pensions from 1975-2014 | PLSA
40th NAPF Annual Survey tracks workplace pensions from 1975-2014

40th NAPF Annual Survey tracks workplace pensions from 1975-2014

03 December 2014
  • Active DB members shrink by two thirds, 3.5m (1975) to 1.1m (2014)
  • Active membership of DC schemes outnumbers that of DB schemes for the first time

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) launched today (Wednesday) its 40th Annual Survey. It provides a unique snapshot of UK workplace pension schemes today and an opportunity to reflect on how this pension landscape has changed since 1975.

NAPF annual workplace pension survey 1975 - 2014



771 organisations responded, representing 976 schemes

250 organisations responded representing 840 schemes

3.5m active members

4.2m active members

£8bn assets

£719bn assets

All defined benefit (DB)

DB and DC (defined contribution)

Basic weekly state pension £13.301

Basic weekly state pension £113.102

Male life expectancy at age 65: 13.3 yrs

Male life expectancy at age 65: 22.0 yrs

Female life expectancy at age 65: 17.6 yrs

Female life expectancy at age 65: 24.5 yrs


Graham Vidler, Director of External Affairs, NAPF, commented:

“This year’s survey allows us to take stock of the major changes that we’ve seen in UK workplace pensions in the last 40 years. The obvious trend is the move from defined benefit to defined contribution. 

“The decline of defined benefit has been well documented as schemes have gradually closed to new members and new contributions from existing members. This year’s survey shows that trend continuing with 39% of DB schemes fully closed compared to 34% last year.

“That said, DB schemes are still very much the dominant investment force in UK workplace pensions, with our survey showing on average £2.3bn of assets in private sector DB pension schemes and £0.25bn in DC pensions schemes in 2014. But the number of active members in DB and DC is a very different story. 

“For the first time, active membership of DC schemes now outstrips the active membership of private sector DB schemes. On average, trust-based DC schemes who responded to our survey had 15,000 active members, compared to just 4,500 active members in the average DB scheme. 

“This shift is not altogether unexpected as most NAPF members have embraced automatic enrolment. It does, however, underline the rapid growth in the number of savers into workplace pensions that automatic enrolment has generated.  We expect to see a further major shift in this area in our 2015 survey results.” 

Defined benefit schemes

This year’s survey showed 50% of DB schemes are open to future accrual among private and ‘other public sector’3 schemes, this rises to 53% when only private sector schemes are taken into account.

Only 8% of private sector DB schemes were still open to new members this year compared to 12% in 2013.

The average pension paid to DB scheme members by respondents was £8,071, up slightly on 2013 from £8,010. 

The overall percentage of DB scheme assets invested in equities continued to decrease in 2014.  Although it is important to note that asset allocation behaviour is influenced by scheme size and status (open or closed).

Defined contribution schemes

The average contribution rate continued its slow downward trend to 11.7% (12.5% in 2013).  This consisted of 7.6% coming from the employer and 4.1% from the employee.  This apparent fall in contributions is due to the sheer volume of new savers joining schemes as a result of automatic enrolment, where their contributions are currently running at the minimum rate.  

More than two thirds (67%) of schemes responding to the survey operate on a matching contribution basis.

33% of employees received the minimum employer contribution and 43% of employees received the maximum employer contribution.

Plotting pension policy 1975-2014

The NAPF annual survey has spanned forty years of pensions policy, and in retrospect it is possible to appreciate the scale of volume and nature of changes in pensions policy.

Graham Vidler, added:

“In forty years – less than a working lifetime – we’ve seen massive changes in the pension landscape. Two tier State pensions have been introduced, radically reformed and then abolished. Contracting out was in – and now is out. Scheme membership was compulsory, then voluntary and now automatic. Stakeholder pensions and annuities both became a significant part of mass market retirement provision and both are now in decline.

“The good news is that at the end of forty years: participation in workplace pensions is up; quality is improving and charges continue to fall. This gives us an opportunity to build a long-term pension settlement for the benefit of savers across the UK.  The best way to seize that opportunity is through the creation of an Independent Retirement Savings Commission – charged with the task to ensure future pensions policy is subject to thorough and impartial scrutiny.”



Cost of a loaf of bread 16p

(ONS Consumer Price Indices)

Cost of a loaf of bread £1

(Hovis 800g sliced white loaf, Sainsbury’s, online price 1 December 2014)

Cost of a pint of beer 32p

(ONS via BBC)

Cost of a pint of beer £3.20

(Good Pub Guide 2014)

Average house price £12,000

(ONS housing price index)

Average house price £213,000

(ONS housing price index)

9,595,400 people above State pension age.

(ONS population data for mid year 1975)

11,900,000 people above State pension age.

(ONS 2013 mid year population estimates)

Estimated 2.9 million pensioners living in relative poverty.

(IFS model of relative poverty (30%) applied to ONS population data for mid year 1975)  

1.6 million pensioners living on a relatively low income.

(DWP Households Below Average Income report 2012/2013)

In football, Derby County top of the football

Premier league 1 December 1975.

In football, Chelsea top of the football

Premier league 1 December 2014.

Number 1 December 1, 1975 - Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen (www.officialcharts.com)

Number 1 December 1, 2014 – Band Aid 30 


At the Oscars (www.oscars.org)

Best film – The Godfather Part II

Best actor – Art Carney

Best actress – Ellen Burstyn

Best costume design – The Great Gatsby

At the Oscars (www.oscars.org)

Best picture – 12 Years A Slave

Best actor- Matthew McConnaughey

Best actress – Cate Blanchett

Best costume design – The Great Gatsby


Notes to editors:

The NAPF is the voice of workplace pensions in the UK. We speak for over 1,300 pension schemes that provide pensions for over 17 million people and have more than £900 billion of assets. We also have 400 members from businesses supporting the pensions sector.

We aim to help everyone get more out of their retirement savings. To do this we spread best practice among our members, challenge regulation where it adds more cost than benefit and promote policies that add value for savers.

  1. Equivalent to £88.24 in 2012 RPI real terms. Source:  DWP annual abstracts.
  2. Source: DWP website.
  3. The group ‘other public sector’ includes organisations such as charities, universities and non-departmental public bodies.

About the survey

250 NAPF members responded to the survey, representing 840 pension schemes.  Though respondents were asked how many individual pension schemes they had, they were only asked to provide detailed information on one DB and/or DC scheme as relevant. 

77% of respondents were in the private sector, 10% were local authority pension funds and 13% were ‘other public sector’ (such as charities, universities and non-departmental public bodies).

The total membership of schemes covered by the survey was 11.4 million, of which:

  • 6.7 million members were in DB schemes (active, deferred and pensioner members);
  • 2.5 million members were in DC schemes (active and deferred members); and,
  • 2.2 million members were in the LGPS (active, deferred and pensioner members).

95% of respondents are already automatically enrolling eligible staff (excluding the LGPS).

Most respondents (83%) planned to use, or were already using, a DC scheme for automatic enrolment. 


Lucy Grubb, Head of Media and PR, NAPF, 020 7601 1726 or 07713 073023, [email protected]

Eleanor Bennett, Press Officer, NAPF, 020 7601 1718 or 07825 171 446, [email protected]

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