Following the Employment and Social Affairs Ministers' meeting in Brussels, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor presented the first summary of results of the EU-wide Green Paper consultation on how the EU can help to ensure adequate, sustainable and safe pensions for its citizens.

Mr. Andor welcomed the broad range of contributions to the consultation procedure: “We received nearly 1,700 responses from across the EU including around 350 from Member State Governments, National Parliaments, business and trade union organisations, civil society and representatives of the pension industry.”

“We cannot expect the younger generation to shoulder the burden of unreformed pension and care systems. That would be simply unsustainable in practical terms and ethically untenable,” Commissioner Andor highlighted in another speech at the prudential event 'Debating demography', 14 March in Brussels. (Graph below shows the projected change in public pension expenditure as a share of GDP over 2007-60 in percentage points. The EU average for public pension expenditure as share of GDP is around 2.4% according to the 2009 Ageing Report.)

Pensions are an important issue for social services in local and regional governments in two respects, according to ESN’s senior policy officer, Stephen Barnett: “Firstly, because the public sector employs such a large number of workers, especially workers now in their mid-fifties who are likely to go into retirement in the next 5-10 years; and secondly, because pensions are an important part of the funding mix for care services as dependent older people pay at least something directly towards the cost of care in most countries.”

Since the challenges of an ageing population are common, the main concerns of the European Commission in this area are:

  • To fully prepare our pension systems for the acceleration of population ageing and overcome imbalances resulting from the increasing divergence between life expectancy and retirement ages.
  • To adjust the European framework to reflect the changes that have come about in national pension systems and moving from largely single systems to multi-pillar systems in many Member States
  • To draw lessons from the financial and economic crisis; there is a need for pension reforms to support sustainability of public finances and adequacy of pensions

The European Commission plans to present a follow-up White Paper in the third quarter of this year to set out proposals for EU initiatives on pensions to support Member States.

Read the Commission's Green Paper on European pension systems (available in 22 languages)