Back to Top

 Skip navigation

Background Notes

Open in Excel:

Purpose of Survey

The purpose of the annual Pensions Survey is to provide reliable annual estimates of pension coverage in the State. Data is published for persons in employment aged 20 to 69 years.

The survey does not measure pensions provided through the State Social Welfare Scheme and instead relates to occupational and personal pension cover (supplementary pension coverage) only. It produces figures on supplementary pension coverage broken down by sex, age group, nationality, ILO employment status, hours of work (full time/part time), NACE economic sector and broad occupational group. It also provides information on the following:

  • Occupational pension type - defined benefit, defined contribution or hybrid
  • Personal pensions – in current contribution, or where payments have been deferred or are in current draw-down mode.
  • For persons in employment who do not have supplementary pension coverage, their reasons for this and their expected source of income on retirement.

The Pensions Survey is carried out on an annual basis in the third quarter of the year, as a module of the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The first iteration of this annual data collection on pension coverage in the State commenced in Quarter 3 2018.

The LFS replaced the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) at the beginning of Quarter 3 2017.  The purpose of the survey is the production of quarterly labour force estimates and occasional reports on special social topics. The survey meets the requirements of Council Regulation (EC) No. 577/98, adopted in March 1998, which requires the introduction of quarterly labour force surveys in EU member states.

The introduction of the new LFS is part of a wider Household Survey Development (HSD) modernisation project. With this change, surveys previously carried out as modules of the QNHS are now carried out for the most part in the General Household Survey (GHS) or included in some or all waves of the LFS.

A pensions module was previously carried out in Quarter 4 2015 and also in Quarter 4 2009 as a module of the QNHS. In 2009, the QNHS moved from seasonal to calendar quarters and the Quarter 4 2009 pensions module was conducted from October to December 2009. Questions on pension provision were also included in the QNHS in 2005, 2007 and 2008 when the QNHS was carried out on a seasonal quarter basis. Questions on pension provision were included in the QNHS in the three months from December to February 2005, 2007 and 2008.  A module on pensions was also included in the three months from September to November 2005.

Questionnaire Design

The annual Pensions Survey was first included in the Quarter 3 LFS in 2018, and was carried out in Quarter 3 2019 also. This survey does not measure pensions provided through the State Social Welfare Scheme and instead relates to occupational and personal pension cover (supplementary pension coverage) only.

It should be noted that, in previous Pensions Surveys carried out as a module of the QNHS (Quarter 4 2015 and prior to this), supplementary pension coverage covered only occupational pensions from one's current employment and personal pensions in current contribution. With the introduction of the annual Pensions Survey in 2018, the survey was expanded to include occupational pension coverage from previous employments (also for self-employed persons) and personal pensions where payments have been deferred or are in current draw-down mode.

Reference Period

The Pensions survey was carried out in the three months from July to September (Quarter 3) in 2019. The questionnaire asked questions about supplementary pension coverage provisions of persons in employment aged 20 to 69 years.

Survey Coverage

The Pensions survey data was collected directly from private households. Institutional households, (e.g. nursing homes, barracks, boarding schools, hotels etc.) were not covered by the survey. A household was defined as a single person or group of people who usually reside together in the same accommodation and who share the same catering arrangements. The household members were not necessarily related by blood or marriage.

A person is defined as a "Usual Resident" of a private household if he or she:

(i) Lives regularly at the dwelling in question, and

(ii) Shares the main living accommodation (i.e. kitchen, living room or bathroom) with the other members of the household.

Data Collection

The LFS is conducted using mixed mode data collection with the introduction of Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). As with the QNHS, information is collected from each sample household over 5 successive quarters or waves. However, in the LFS, the first interview is conducted by a team of face-to-face interviewers using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). The four follow-up interviews are conducted using CATI from a dedicated call centre, where householders have agreed to conduct a telephone interview, but are conducted using face-to-face interviews where householders have not agreed to conduct a telephone interview.

One person from each household selected was randomly chosen to participate in the Pensions Survey. Information was collected directly from respondents and proxy responses from other members of the household were not accepted. The Pensions survey was asked of persons in employment aged 20 to 69 years, in all waves of the LFS, in Quarter 3 2019.

Sample Design

A new sample based on the 2011 Census of Population was selected for the LFS and this was introduced incrementally from Q1 2016. The sample is stratified using administrative county and the Pobal HP (Haase and Pratschke) Deprivation Index. A two-stage sample design is used. In the first stage 1,300 blocks are selected using Probability Proportional to Size (PPS) sampling. In the second stage, households are selected using Simple Random Sampling (SRS). This ensures each household in the sample frame has an equal probability of selection.

To account for the additional attrition resulting from the introduction of mixed mode data collection, the LFS sample has been increased incrementally from Q3 2017. An additional 1,300 households have been included in Wave 1 for each quarter up to Q3 2018 and this has resulted in a total sample of 32,500 from Q3 2018 onwards. The actual achieved sample varies over time depending on the level of response.

A new sample based on the 2016 Census of Population is being introduced on a phased basis (over five quarters) from Q2 2019 and will be fully operational by Q2 2020. As with the expiring sample, the new sample is stratified using administrative county and the Pobal HP (Hasse and Pratschke) Deprivation Index and consists of 32,500 households per quarter.

Households are asked to take part in the survey for five consecutive quarters and are then replaced by other households in the same block. Thus, one fifth of the households in the survey are replaced each quarter and the QNHS/LFS sample involves an overlap of 80% between consecutive quarters and 20% between the same quarter in consecutive years.

The survey results are weighted to agree with population estimates broken down by age, sex and region and are also calibrated to nationality control totals. The LFS results also contain a non-response adjustment to make the results from the achieved sample representative of the target sample and the population. The population estimates for April of each year are published in a separate release.

New samples, both based on the 2011 Census of Population, were introduced incrementally for the QNHS in Q4 2012 and in Q3 2016. The former was stratified using administrative county and population density, while the latter was stratified using administrative county and the Pobal HP (Haase and Pratschke) Deprivation Index. The quarterly sample in each case was 26,000 households. The actual achieved sample varied over time depending on the level of response.

Achieved sample

The number of valid responding households for the LFS in Q3 2019 was 14,152. The module on Pensions was asked only of persons in employment and of one person per household. The achieved sample in Quarter 3 2019 was 7,373 individuals. See Table 7.1 for a detailed breakdown of the achieved sample for the module on pensions:

Show Table: Table 7.1 Unweighted sample of persons in employment (ILO) aged 20 to 69 years, Q3 2018 and Q3 2019

Eligible persons

One eligible individual within the household was randomly selected to participate in the Pensions Survey. Eligibility is based on:

  • age - only persons aged between 20 and 69 in the household were included in the random person generator.
  • employment status – only persons in employment were included in the random person generator, i.e. persons who worked in the week before the survey for one hour or more for payment or profit, including work on the family farm or business and all persons who had a job but were not at work because of illness, holidays etc. in the week.

Usual Residence and De Facto Population Concepts

Up to and including Q1 2006 the annual population estimates were calculated using the defacto definition of population (i.e. all persons present in the state). Since Q2 2006 a new concept of usual residence has been used, i.e. all persons usually resident and present in the state plus absent persons who are usually resident in Ireland but are temporarily away from home and outside the state.

Statistical Significance

All estimates based on sample surveys are subject to error, some of which is measurable. Where an estimate is statistically significantly different from another estimate it means that we can be 95% confident that differences between those two estimates are not due to sampling error.

Reliability of Estimates Presented

Estimates for number of persons, where there are less than 30 persons in a cell, are too small to be considered reliable. These estimates are presented with an asterisk (*) in the relevant tables.

Where there are 30-49 persons in a cell, estimates are considered to have a wider margin of error and should be treated with caution. These cells are presented with parentheses [ ] .

Note on Tables

The sum of row or column percentages in the tables in this report may not add to 100.0% due to rounding. Percentage breakdowns exclude cases where the interviewee did not respond.

Pension Coverage 

Through the State Social Welfare system, most people are entitled to a basic flat rate pension. See the note on 'State Pensions' below. However, in many cases, there is a need for additional pension cover if the standard of living enjoyed while at work is to be maintained into retirement.  This additional or supplementary coverage is provided through occupational pension schemes and/or personal pension arrangements.  It is this additional cover which is the focus of this survey. The survey results presented in this statistical release do not cover pensions paid through the State Social Welfare system.

State Pensions

The State currently provides two types of retirement pension: State Pension (Contributory) and State Pension (Non-Contributory).

The State pension age is currently 66 years, but this is changing in the coming years. The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 made a number of changes to the qualifying age for State pensions. The qualifying age will rise to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028.

If you were born on or after 1 January 1955, the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 67.

If you were born on or after 1 January 1961 the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 68.

The State Pension (Contributory) is payable at age 66 (age 67 from 2021, age 68 from 2028) to people who have enough Irish social insurance contributions and is not means-tested.

The State Pension (Non-Contributory) previously known as the Old Age (Non-Contributory) Pension is payable at age 66 (age 67 from 2021, age 68 from 2028). The means-tested State Pension (Non-Contributory) is a payment for people aged 66 and over who do not qualify for a State Pension (Contributory) or who only qualify for a reduced contributory pension based on their PRSI contribution record.

Occupational Pension Scheme

Occupational pension schemes, also known as company pension plans, refer to employer-sponsored occupational pension schemes or relevant public sector scheme. Company pension plans of this nature are generally funded by both the employer and the employee through contributions based on a percentage of an employee’s gross salary.

An occupational pension scheme will be either a Defined Benefit or a Defined Contribution scheme.

In a Defined Benefit scheme, the pension paid on retirement is related to the number of years of employed service and on the employee’s earnings at retirement or in the years immediately preceding retirement or on career earnings (as in the case of Career-average Defined Benefit schemes). Career-average Defined Benefit schemes are a variation of the traditional Defined Benefit design. The level of pension at retirement is based, not on the earnings close to retirement, but rather on the average earnings throughout the member's entire career.

In a Defined Contribution scheme, pension contributions by the employee and employer are put into a fund, the value of which changes over time. The pension payable is based on the value of contributions in the fund at retirement age.

The corresponding question asked on the Pensions survey questionnaire was as follows:

Is your pension more like Type A or Type B?

Type A: A Defined Contribution pension, where pension contributions by you and your employer are put into a fund, the value of which changes over time. Your pension will depend on the size of this fund when you retire.

Type B: A Defined Benefit pension, where your pension depends on the number of years' service and your earnings at retirement or in the years immediately preceding retirement. Also included are Career-average Defined Benefit Pensions.

Personal Pension Scheme

There are two forms of personal pension plans, a Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) and a Retirement Annuity Contract (RAC).

Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA):

A Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) is a personal pension plan available to both self-employed and employed individuals who may or may not have an occupational scheme and is taken out with an authorised PRSA provider. PRSAs are a type of Defined Contribution scheme. PRSAs are available regardless of one's job or employment status.

On retirement, a PRSA provides retirement benefits based on the amount of contributions paid and the investment returns earned on those contributions. It is normally paid for by one's personal contributions, although employers can pay contributions also.

If an employer does not provide access to an occupational pension scheme or if certain restrictions apply to accessing the scheme, they must ensure that employees at least have access to a standard PRSA.

Retirement Annuity Contract (RAC):

A Retirement Annuity Contract (RAC) is a particular type of insurance contract obtained directly from life assurance companies and through financial advisers. They are approved by Revenue to allow tax relief on contributions made by an individual. An RAC provides a tax-free lump sum, within certain limits, and a pension or other benefits at retirement. The value of the ultimate benefits payable from the contract depends on the amount of contributions paid and the investment return achieved.

National Pensions Policy Initiative (NPPI)

The National Pensions Policy Initiative was launched in October 1996 to facilitate debate on how to achieve a fully developed national pension system and to formulate a strategy and make recommendations for actions needed to achieve this system. One of the targets of this Initiative was that supplementary pension coverage would be needed for 70% of the working population aged 30 years and over by the year 2013.

National Pensions Framework

The National Pensions Framework was published on 3 March 2010 and sets out the Government’s plans for reform of the Irish pension system. It encompasses all aspects of pensions, from social welfare to private occupational pensions and public sector pension reform and is available at:

http://www.welfare.ie/en/Pages/234_National-Pensions-Framework.aspx

Development of the Framework was informed by the range of views raised during the Green Paper consultation process. The Green Paper (published in October 2007) sets out the position in relation to social welfare, occupational, personal and public service pensions and is available at:

http://www.welfare.ie/en/downloads/greenpaper.pdf

Pensions Authority

The Pensions Authority (formerly known as the Pensions Board) provides for the proper administration of pension schemes and the protection of pension rights for people living in Ireland. The Authority is the regulatory body for occupational pension schemes and Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) and also has a role in the development of pension policy in general. Under the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013, the Pensions Board was renamed the Pensions Authority and its Chief Executive became the Pensions Regulator. These changes took effect from 7 March 2014.

Classifications Used:

ILO Labour Force Classification

The primary classification used for the LFS results is the ILO (International Labour Office) labour force classification. Labour Force Survey data on this basis have been published since 1988. The ILO classification distinguishes the following main subgroups of the population aged 15 years or over:

In Employment:  Persons who worked in the week before the survey for one hour or more for payment or profit, including work on the family farm or business and all persons who had a job but were not at work because of illness, holidays etc. in the week.

Unemployed:  Persons who, in the week before the survey, were without work and available for work within the next two weeks and had taken specific steps in the preceding four weeks to find work. It should be noted that, as per Eurostat’s operational implementation, the upper age limit for classifying a person as unemployed is 74 years.

Inactive Population (not in labour force) All other persons.

The labour force comprises persons employed plus unemployed.

NACE Industrial Classification

The LFS sectoral employment figures are based on the EU NACE Rev. 2 (Nomenclature généraledes activités économiques dans les Communauté Européenne) classification as defined in Council Regulation (EC) No. 1893/2006. Fourteen NACE sub-categories are distinguished in a number of tables in this publication. From Q1 2009, NACE Rev. 2 has been adopted as the primary classification of industrial sectors for use in QNHS/LFS outputs. The NACE Rev. 1.1 classification had been in use from Q4 1997 to Q4 2008.

To facilitate analysis and the running of seasonal adjustment on the time series, NACE Rev. 2 estimates have been produced from Q1 1998 onwards. As of Q2 2009 only NACE Rev. 2 estimates have been published.

Occupation Classification

As a result of changes to the European regulations governing the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (implemented in Ireland using the LFS, formerly the QNHS) the CSO has been obliged to report occupational coding data to Eurostat based on the new Europe-wide classification ISCO-08 from Q1 2011 onwards. To allow this requirement to be met the CSO changed to using UK SOC2010 as the primary classification used in collecting the data. ISCO-08 is then derived from UK SOC2010.

The previously used classification for publication purposes in Ireland was UK SOC1990 and this cannot be directly compared to the new UK SOC2010 classification as all occupations have been reclassified accordingly. One particular example which highlighted this change was the reclassifying of farmers from the major occupation grouping of ‘Managers and administrators’ in SOC1990 to the major occupation grouping of ‘Skilled trades’ in SOC2010.

Results for occupations coded to the new SOC2010 classification have now been recoded for historical quarters back to Q1 2007 to provide a longer and consistent time series for users.

Further information regarding SOC 2010 is available here

Acknowledgement

The Central Statistics Office wishes to thank the participating households for their co-operation in agreeing to take part in the survey and for facilitating the collection of the relevant data.

Go to next chapter:Contact Details