PLSA proposes reforms to add almost £4,000 – or 25% – to median earner’s annual income in retirement
12 October 2022
The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) has recommended the government to make five reforms to the UK pensions system to help millions of people achieve a better income in retirement.
In the 10 years since Automatic Enrolment was first introduced the unprecedented success of the policy has become clear. Saver numbers are up significantly to 19.4 million, opt outs are lower than expected and evidence suggests people highly value pension savings and will continue to save in large numbers despite significant economic shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, following research based on modelling by the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), the PLSA finds that without reform, more than 50% of savers will fail to meet the retirement income targets set by the 2005 Pensions Commission. This is true for people on average earnings, as well as for under-pensioned groups, such as people – often women – who take time out of work to care for others, and specific elements of the workforce such as the self-employed, gig-economy workers and people with part-time jobs. The research also found that around a fifth of households are likely to achieve less income than needed to meet the Minimum level of the independently assessed, Retirement Living Standards.
In ‘Five Steps to Better Pensions: Time for a New Consensus,’ the PLSA has reviewed and assessed the current pensions framework and modelled the impact of a range of potential policy interventions. It finds five key elements of reform are needed to future proof the pensions system. If policymakers plan now and set out a roadmap for reforms, over the next 10 to 15 years a new framework could be implemented to substantially improve the prospects of the majority of savers.
Five recommendations for reform:
- National objectives: The creation of clear national objectives for the UK pension system – ‘adequate, affordable and fair’ – combined with regular formal monitoring of whether it is on track to achieve these goals.
- State pension: Reform of the state pension so everyone achieves the Minimum Retirement Living Standard, to prevent pensioner poverty.
- AE reform: Reform of AE so more people are included, such as younger people, multiple job holders and gig economy workers, and at a higher level so people on median earnings are likely to achieve the Pensions Commission’s Target Replacement Rates. These measures include saving from the first pound of earnings, and gradually increasing contributions from 8% to 12% from the mid-2020s to the early 2030s – with contributions split evenly between employers and employees.
- Under pensioned groups: Additional policy interventions to help under pensioned groups, including women, gig economy workers, self-employed people, and others.
- Industry initiatives to achieve better pensions: actions to help people engage with pensions, receive higher contributions, or get better pension outcomes.
PLSA calculations based on PPI modelling show that after each of the recommended reforms are implemented, a median earner would see their pension income increase from around £15,000 a year to around £19,000 – an increase of almost £4,000 or 25%. This means they will achieve the target income suggested by the Pensions Commission.
The study also shows that the core proposals work for higher earners, although in order to achieve the Pension Commission targets, they would need to make some additional voluntary contributions. People at all income levels would benefit from a higher state pension (about £1,000 per year more than now) but it would be of greatest proportionate benefit to those on lower incomes.
There is already broad agreement that evolution of Automatic Enrolment is needed; the Work and Pensions Committee made some similar recommendations to government
in late September.
‘Five Steps to Better Pensions’ and the accompanying research paper, will be launched at the PLSA’s Annual Conference in Liverpool on 12 October, with the publishing of the report marking the start of a consultation period. The PLSA is seeking views on its findings and recommendations from anyone with an interest in improving retirement outcomes in the UK. All stakeholders are invited to send their views on the consultation questions by 31 March 2023 to the following email address: [email protected].
Emma Douglas, Chair, PLSA and Director of Workplace at Aviva, said: “The PLSA’s recommendations – Five Steps to Better Pensions – will help form a new national consensus on how best to build upon a decade of automatic enrolment success so everyone can achieve the right income in retirement.
“The combined successful implementation of these recommendations could make a huge difference to the retirement income of today’s savers. An annual increase of almost £4,000, or 25% for median earners, is particularly significant.
“Now, in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, is not the time for radical change but by providing a clear ‘roadmap’ for reforms, government will give employers and pension savers time to plan, which will help to ensure better retirements.”
Nigel Peaple, Director Policy & Advocacy, PLSA, said: “Today, the PLSA is publishing proposals for reform – Five Steps to Better Pensions – that will deliver meaningful improvement in the standard of living future retirees can expect.
“The first of these steps is for the UK to set clear objectives for its pension framework and that these targets are monitored to ensure we are on track.
“Our proposals are designed to help both workers who are currently saving in a workplace pension and those who are not, such as women undertaking caring responsibilities, the self-employed and people in part-time jobs.
“Given the current cost of living crisis, we are not proposing any increases in pension contributions during the next three years and, after that point, only very gradual increases over the following decade until a point in the early 2030s when most people will contribute 12% - split evenly between employers and employees.
“Our report is a consultation exercise and we hope very much to hear from all those; whether from pension, business, worker or pensioner organisations; who have an interest in ensuring everyone has a better income in retirement.”
Mark Smith, Head of Media Relations
020 7601 1726 | [email protected]
Steven Kennedy, Senior PR Manager
020 7601 1737 | 07713 073024 | [email protected]