Irish Examiner View: Pensions apartheid highlighted again

Irish Examiner View: Pensions apartheid highlighted again

If pensions are a surprise election issue then the reaction of the major parties is not surprising. Ignoring sustainability and officially sanctioned inequity all stayed within our conventional, failing idea of pension provision.

Minor tweaks, policy reversals and, inevitably, reviews of the State retirement age were all promised. However, not one party dared engage with the elephant in the room — how pensions can mean so many different things to so many different groups.

That variation was underlined yesterday when it was reported that private sector pension funds have taken a hit as fund managers cut the value of commercial property funds.

Aviva pared back its Friends First commercial property fund by 9.1%, while Irish Life has marked down its Irish Property fund by 6.1%.

The dilemma around our pension systems is encapsulated in this simple market change. It makes no difference to public workers but private sector workers relying on those schemes must take it on the chin — again.

Unions have belatedly woken up on this issue but those in power refuse to engage. It is too late to change systems to help anyone over, say, 50 but it is possible to establish a national pension fund to support all retired workers equitably.

That idea seems ever more pressing many of today’s 30-somethings are frozen out of the property market.

And, in a win-win possibility, that fund could be used to provide capital for badly needed social schemes like housing. Who could object?

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