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Release: Occupational Pension Schemes Survey, 2012

Released: 26 September 2013 Next edition: 25 September 2014


David Matthews

Business Outputs and Developments Division

Telephone: +44 (0)1633 456756

Categories: Economy, Personal Finances, Occupational and personal pensions, Pensions

Frequency of release: Annually

Language: English

Geographical coverage: UK

Geographical breakdown: UK

Survey name(s): Occupational Pension Scheme Survey (OPSS)

  • Total membership of occupational pension schemes (excludes other workplace pensions such as group personal pensions or group stakeholder pensions) with two or more members in 2012 was estimated to be 27.6 million, an increase of 400,000 compared to 2011.

  • The numbers contributing, or having contributions paid into a scheme (active members), continues to fall. In 2012 there were 7.8 million active members of occupational pension schemes compared to 8.2 million in 2011 and 12.2 million at the peak in 1967.

  • Approximately 5.1 million active members were in public sector schemes and 2.7 million were in private sector schemes.

  • For private sector defined benefit schemes, the average contribution rate in 2012 was 4.9% for members (employees) and 15.2% for employers.

  • For private sector defined contribution schemes, the average contribution rate in 2012 was 3.1% for members (employees) and 6.6% for employers.

In this release

The Occupational Pension Schemes Survey (OPSS) is an annual survey of occupational pension schemes, and is run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The survey was first run in 1953, then in 1956 and 1963, and then every four to five years until 2004 when it became an annual survey. Until its transfer to ONS in 2006, OPSS was run by the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD).

OPSS collects information from occupational pension schemes about scheme membership, benefits and contributions; it includes sections on very small schemes (schemes with 2 to 11 members) and those that are winding up. OPSS covers both private and public sector occupational pension schemes registered in the UK. Results from OPSS provide a detailed view of the nature of occupational pension provision in the UK.

It is important to note that OPSS does not cover other workplace pensions such as group personal pensions or group stakeholder pensions, which are based on individuals entering into a contract with a pension provider; nor does it cover state pensions.

Although the UK has a well-established private pension system, there are concerns about funding retirement benefits for an ageing population (see Pension Trends Chapter 2). The Pensions Act 2008, with some amendments in the Pensions Act 2011, put in place a framework for workplace pension reform designed to increase saving for retirement.

Starting in October 2012, with gradual roll-out to all employers by 2018, employers have a duty to automatically enrol all eligible employees into a qualifying pension scheme and to make contributions on their behalf. Workers will be able to opt out of their employer’s scheme if they choose not to participate but, if they are still eligible, they will be re-enrolled after a three year period.

The reference date for the OPSS is 6 April of a given year; as such the process of auto-enrolment does not have a direct impact on the survey results for 2012.

This release provides summary data on membership of schemes and contributions paid. To assist users in their understanding of these data, a glossary of pension definitions are included as part of the background notes of this release.

These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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