Documents considered by the Committee on 3 November 2010, including the following recommendations for debate: Financial Management - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


15 Pension costs of EU staff

(31895)

12921/10

SEC(10) 989

Commission Staff Working Document: Eurostat study on the long-term budgetary implications of pension costs

Legal base
Document originated18 August 2010
Deposited in Parliament26 August 2010
DepartmentHM Treasury
Basis of considerationEM of 16 September 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilNo date set
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared

Background

15.1 At the request of the Council, the Commission has undertaken a study on the long-term budgetary implications of pension costs of the staff of all EU institutions and agencies, covering the period 2010-2059.

The document

15.2 The study, complied by Eurostat,[78] includes an analysis of the impact of the 2004 reform of the Staff Regulations on future pensions' costs, by comparing the effect of the parameters applicable before the reform with that of parameters introduced by the reform, suggesting that the reforms have a significant effect in reducing future pension costs. Reforms included a reduction in the pension accrual rate from 2% of final salary per year of service to 1.9% and an increase in the pensionable age from 60 to 63. Other reforms with an indirect impact on pension costs include the replacement of officials with contract agents, and lower entry level salaries.

15.3 The Pension Scheme of European Officials (PSEO) is operated on an unfunded basis, which has implications for how the budgetary impact is spread over time. The PSEO is financed on a 'pay as you go' basis where contributions to the scheme are not invested in a pension fund but are counted as revenue in the EU budget. Likewise, pension payments are charged to the EU budget, not to a pension fund, and Member States guarantee the payments of these benefits under Article 83(1) of the Staff Regulations.

15.4 This means that in its initial stages net revenue is produced from the contributions of active staff, but in the longer term, as active staff retire, the pensions costs increase until the pension scheme matures, that is, the number of deceased retirees in a given year balances the number of new beneficiaries. The budgetary impact therefore increases as the scheme approaches maturity.

KEY FINDINGS

15.5 The key findings of the study are set out below:

— The PSEO is not yet mature. This is because, even though the scheme has been in existence since 1962, the number of staff has grown over time in the context of successive enlargements. On the assumption that the active population will remain constant over the period 2010-2059, the number of beneficiaries of the scheme (old age pensioners, invalids and survivors) will progressively increase from around 17,500 in 2010 to about 38,500 in 2046 and afterwards decline slightly to 36,500 in 2059. Thus the scheme will only reach maturity in the 2040s. By 2059, the number of beneficiaries will have increased by 109% since 2010.

— An implication of the fact that the scheme is not yet mature is that annual pension expenditure will grow over the projection period. Total pension expenditure (at constant prices) will grow from 1,235 million Euros in 2010 to peak at 2,490 million Euros in 2045, before falling to 2,259 million Euros in 2059. This represents an increase of 83% between 2010 and 2059. Pension expenditure is therefore projected to grow more slowly than the number of pensioners, largely due to the effects of the 2004 reform of the Staff Regulations.

— In connection with this growth of pension expenditure, it is important to appreciate that the new pension expenditure due to a staff member retiring today has already been paid for, in the form of the pension contributions paid during that staff member's period of service.

— Under the "pay as you go" method of financing, staff contributions were not set aside in a pension fund, but were credited to the EU budget at the time they were collected and spent in accordance with the decisions of the budgetary authority. Thereby the budget was, in a sense, borrowing this money from the members of the scheme. For the rest, which would normally correspond to the employer's part of the contribution, no contribution was ever paid; instead Member States have undertaken a commitment to pay future pension benefits (to be charged to the Union budget) when the staff retires. As members of the PSEO reach retirement, the money needs to be repaid to them in the form of retirement benefits. It is therefore to be expected that the budgetary impact will increase as the scheme approaches maturity.

— Nevertheless, as noted above, action was taken in 2004 to limit the costs of the pension scheme for the future in the context of the reform of the Staff Regulations. Some changes to the Staff Regulations were aimed directly at limiting the cost of pensions, such as the reduction in the pension accrual rate from 2% of final salary per year of service to 1.9% and the increase of the pensionable age from 60 to 63. There were also changes to the Staff Regulations which, while not directly related to pension cost, have an impact on the overall cost of pensions by limiting the final salaries on which pension benefits are calculated. These include the replacement of officials with contract agents, and lower entry level salaries combined with a longer career path comprising more grades, but faster promotions.

— An analysis of the impact of these changes, along with the replacement of "capital" with "country" correction coefficients and the faster promotion expected for staff under the new Staff Regulations, shows that the reform will have a significant effect in reducing pension costs.

— The annual cost savings between 2010 and 2059 resulting from the 2004 reform of the Staff Regulations will increase over time and will reach 1,047 million Euros in 2059. This means that the total pension expenditure in 2059, which is now projected to increase by 83% as compared to 2010, would instead have increased by 168% without the reform of 2004. The total cost savings over 50 years are projected to be 24,785 million Euros. This may even understate the total savings from the reform, as it does not take into account savings from the changes to invalidity and survivors' pensions.

The Government's view

15.6 The Economic Secretary at the Treasury (Justine Greening) describes the study as a statistical analysis rather than a policy document per se. However, she says the Government is concerned about the size of the EU budget, and is working hard to ensure EU spending is directed towards areas of the budget with strong financial management controls and offering best value for money. In that regard the Government welcomes the study's finding that the 2004 reforms of the Staff Regulations have resulted in cost savings. The Government is, however, concerned about the study's conclusion on an increasing EU pensions burden. The Government believes that, at a time when governments across Europe have taken significant actions to reduce the costs of their public sector, including freezing or even cutting civil service staff salaries, and making commitments to undertake fundamental reviews of staff pension schemes, pay and pensions in EU institutions must reflect the very difficult decisions which are being made right across Europe.

15.7 She says that the study has no immediate financial implications for the UK. It projects that total pension expenditure will peak at EUR 2,490 million (£2,054 million) in 2045, the estimated date of the scheme's maturity, whereupon the number of beneficiaries will decline by 5%. Together with the projected 4% decrease in average pensions, this will lead to a drop in pension expenditure to EUR 2,259 million (£1,863 million) in 2059. Assuming a budget of 1% of GNI, the pension cost would rise from 0.9% of the EU budget in 2010 to 1% in 2045, before declining to 0.8% in 2059. These costs will need to be taken into account when developing and negotiating Financial Frameworks over the coming decades.

15.8 As to timing, the Minister says that the study was discussed for the first time by the Groupe Statut (the Council working group on staff regulations) on 7 September. On the basis of that discussion the Presidency indicated that it expected a thorough discussion of the study at subsequent meetings, beginning at the next meeting on 23 September 2010.

Conclusion

15.9 We report this to the House because of the current focus of national attention on the size of the EU budget.

15.10 We share the Minister's view that pay and pensions in the EU institutions must reflect the very difficult decisions which are being made in national administrations across Europe.

15.11 We clear the document, but asked to be kept informed if there are any significant developments arising from the discussion of this topic in the Group Statut.





78   Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union situated in Luxembourg. Its task is to provide the European Union with statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions. Back


 
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