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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

Can public and private pensions be protective and affordable?

Published: 21 July 2008 Origin:  Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology

Understanding recent change in Britain and Germany.

The sustainability of advanced welfare states is increasingly in doubt. Economic internationalisation poses employment problems; post-industrial labour markets imply a lower potential for productivity gains; demographic challenges, low economic growth and high levels of non-employment within the working age population in many countries undermine welfare state resources.

Industrialised nations are thus faced with a serious challenge: to construct sustainable welfare provision for sustainable growth, i.e. a new social settlement for a new social and economic age.

Dr Paul Bridgen and Dr Traute Meyer from the University of Southampton are involved in a project (with Dr Barbara Riedmüller from the Free University of Berlin) to investigate current policies and new avenues which could help to achieve a new social settlement at a time of rapid change and growing uncertainty surrounding traditional social policy provision.

The project, part of an international research programme funded by the Anglo-German Foundation, aims to identify shifts in the role of public and private (occupational) welfare provision in a European context.

Questions which will be considered during the project are:

  • What are the dimensions of recent changes in public private pension regimes?
  • How diverse is the occupational and personal pension scheme landscape?
  • What is the effect of these changes for the retirement incomes of future pensioners?
  • How can we understand the behaviour of non-state actors involved in pensions - employers, unions, banks and households under conditions of uncertainty?

The project commenced in October 2006 and will run until October 2008. Findings will be available from early 2009 (some results have already been published and can be accessed via the authors’ personal websites).

It is hoped that the project will provide a better understanding of the reasons behind employers and insurers offering private pensions, and also of the opportunities that citizens, working for different types of employers, have to protect themselves against the risk of being poor after retirement.

Further information on the project can be found at and on Dr Bridgen's and Dr Meyer's personal webpages.

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