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Introduction and Key Findings

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

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 also covers 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. Prior to 2021, the survey covered persons in current employment only, but in 2021, the data collection was expanded to also include persons not in current employment, but who have been previously employed on a full-time or part-time basis. This includes persons who may have been laid off or temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The definitions used for employment and unemployment in this survey are based on International Labour Organisation (ILO) concepts and definitions. More information is available on the ILO labour force classification in the Background Notes.

The Pensions Survey data is collected directly from private households. Institutional households (e.g. nursing homes, barracks, boarding schools, hotels etc.) are not covered by the survey.

Users should note that the mode of data collection for this survey in 2021 has changed from a mixed mode data collection model, where both CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal (face to face) Interviewing) and CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) were used, to CATI data collection mode only. The CSO had to suspend direct face-to-face interviews due to the social distancing measures introduced in Ireland because of COVID-19. Consequently, all interviews for this survey were carried out by telephone. Users should note that there does seem to be modal effects in the data. Also, while the data collection for this survey was expanded in 2021 to cover persons in current employment and also persons not presently in employment but who had previous employments, who may or may not have been laid off or temporarily laid off due to COVID, this publication focusses primarily on persons in employment. As for CSO Earnings and Labour Costs publications during the pandemic, it is likely there are compositional effects in the data between 2019, 2020 and 2021 – the composition of the workforce changing in 2020/2021 due to COVID-19. This may have impacted on calculated pension rates.

Also, response rates for the survey are being impacted by the enforced change of mode to 100% telephone interviews and the COVID-19 pandemic. The achieved sample size for the Q3 2021 survey was 4,975 compared with 5,130 respondents in 2020 and 7,574 in 2019. Further information is available in the Background Notes on the above issues.

Table 1.1 Pension coverage for persons in employment (ILO) aged 20 to 69 years, Q3 2019 - Q3 2021

X-axis labelOccupational pension onlyPersonal pension onlyBoth
Q3 201961.515.123.4
Q3 202069.712.318
Q3 202172.711.515.8
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  • In Quarter 3 2021, 65.7% of all persons in employment aged between 20 and 69 years had supplementary pension cover, up one percentage point on the same period in 2020. This includes occupational pension cover from current or previous employments and personal pension cover, including those where payments have been deferred for a period of time or are currently being drawn down by the pension holder. See Table 1.1.
  • Pension coverage remained lowest among the younger workers. In Quarter 3 2021, just over one quarter (25.2%) of workers aged 20 to 24 years had a pension. Pension coverage was greatest among workers aged 45-54 years where over three quarters of persons in employment (76.7%) had supplementary pension cover. See Table 1.1.
  • Of self-employed persons in employment in Quarter 3 2021, 54.6% had pension cover. This includes occupational pension cover from previous employments and also personal pensions (including personal pensions where payments have been deferred for a period of time and pensions currently in draw-down mode). See Table 2.1.
  • For persons in employment, occupational pension cover increased by three percentage points on the same period in 2020 (72.7% in 2021 compared with 69.7% in 2020), while personal pension cover decreased – 11.5% compared with 12.3% in 2020. See Table 3.1 and Figure 1.1.
  • Supplementary pension cover, where someone had both an occupational and personal pension, of persons in employment aged between 20 and 69 years decreased by over two percentage points when compared with the same period in 2020 (to 15.8% from 18% of persons in employment in Quarter 3 2020). See Table 3.1 and Figure 1.1.
  • Of those workers with an occupational pension from their current employment, the proportion of those in employment with ‘defined benefit’ pensions fell by almost six percentage points on the same period in 2020 (28% compared with 33.8% in 2020), while the prevalence of ‘defined contribution’ pensions increased by nearly five percentage points - 68.5% of those in employment compared with 63.9% in 2020. See Table 4.1.
  • For persons with occupational pension cover from their current employment, almost one in five (19%) have been in their pension scheme for 20 years or more. See Table 4.2.
  • For those workers with no occupational pension coverage from their current employment, more than half (53.3%) stated that their employer does not offer a pension scheme. See Table 4.4.
  • In Quarter 3 2021, over seven in ten (70.3%) workers with personal pension provision were currently paying into their pension, an increase of over four percentage points (66% in 2020) on the same period in 2020. Workers who had deferred payments on their personal pension for a period of time decreased in 2021 – 27.3% of those with personal pension provision compared with 32.2% in 2020. See Tables 5.1 and 5.2.
  • Of workers who have no pension cover, 45.2% stated that the main reason was that they never got around to organising it or will organise at a future date, while four in ten (40%) said that they could not afford pension cover. See Table 6.1.
  • Almost half (49.6%) of workers with no pension cover stated that they will rely on the State Social Welfare pension as their main source of income in retirement, while over three in ten (30.9%) have not decided yet. See Table 6.2.

The Pension Coverage 2020 publication is available to view here.

For further information see tables on PxStat

Go to next chapter: Overall Pension Coverage