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27 February 2018

New issue of Transfer: occupational pensions and trade unions

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The February 2018 issue of Transfer, the European Review of Labour and Research, aims to provide more insight into the variation in coverage, design and quality of pension arrangements across Europe, with a focus on the politics of occupational pension development, including the role of the social partners.

Concerns about demographic ageing, combined with low growth scenarios and a general pressure to limit welfare spending, have led to retrenchments in old-age public pensions in many countries. Contrary to what had been hoped, and perhaps expected, occupational pensions have not always expanded to fill the gap. A general finding of this special issue is that in countries where higher coverage rates are reached, such as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, this has happened either through legislation or through collective agreements. Another conclusion is that under certain conditions employers can become allies for politicians who aim to push social responsibilities from states to markets. What is more, in many countries the finance industry plays an active role in trying to encourage the growth of occupational pensions.

The approach of trade unions to occupational pensions is complex and highly dependent on the national context. In Austria, Denmark and Norway for example, trade unions have given priority to developing and defending state pension schemes and have been rather hostile towards occupational pensions. In countries where state programmes offer limited replacement rates, trade unions often have to accept a trade-off between coverage rates and the quality of the occupational pension schemes.

You can download for free the editorial (also in French and German) of this special issue as well as the article by the coordinators Beyond coverage: the politics of occupational pensions and the role of trade unions. Introduction to special issue (freely available until 20 March 2018).

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