4. THE EUROPEAN PENSION FUNDS SECTOR
The European occupational pension fund (PF) sector
continues to be negatively aected by the persistent
low interest rate environment. Additionally, in 2018
the sector came under increased pressure by the fall in
stock values pertaining to significant losses in IORPs’
equity investments . d g g- m s
c m s expensive in an environment wit h low long-ter m
interest r ates, so that Defined Benefit plans’ (DB) balance
sheets are primarily aected, as they provide e mployees
with a pre- defined le vel of p ension. However, also De-
fined Contr ibution schemes (DC) have lost values and are
aected by the low interest rate environment. Her e, the
investment risk is with the membe r and beneficiar y of the
pension fund and will have to cater for the conseque nces
in their savings.
The negative eects of the challenging economic
environment are mitigated by initiatives to increase
funding and ashift towards DC pension schemes , but
demographic developments add additional strain. In-
itiatives like auto-e nrolment and auto matic incre ases in
contribution le vels help to increase funding and bring
more asset s under management. So me reforms pro mote
consolidation of the pension fund sector and br ing much
needed eciency gains, also facilitated by the transposi-
tion of t he IORP II Dire ctive (Dire ctive (EU) 2016/2341).
However, pe ople living lo nger and ot her demo graphic
challenges push the shift from DB to DC, which is indee d
incentivised by re cent national legislative develop ments.
DB schemes are often closed for new member s and in
a‘run o’ state.
4.1. KEY DEVELOPMENTS
Total assets held by occupational pension funds in-
creased by 0.4% for the EEA and decrease d by-0.5%
for the Euro Area (EA)
during 2018 (Figure 4 .1). In 2018,
the Europe an IORPs sect or manages aro und EUR 3.8
trillion of asset s. The UK and NL continue to rep resent
the two largest IOR Ps markets with an increase of total
assets by 1. 2 percentage points (p.p.) for UK (EUR 1.8t n)
and aslight de crease of-1.1 p.p. for NL (EUR 1.3tn). This is
asubstantial d ecrease fro m the considerable grow th (of
over 5%) in re cent years. Whilst contributio ns remained
stable or increased, suppor ted by national initiative s, this
decrease – or slight increase – evidences the impact of
the significant impairment of the asset values in 2018.
The UK and the Netherlands account for about 82 .2%
of the European Occupational pensions sector in
terms of assets under management (Table 4 .1). The re la-
tive share of private and p ublic pensions, cultural and his-
torical dier ences drive the pension sector s in the EE A.
Both UK and NL social security and pension systems rely
heavily on priv ate pensions and in part icular on retir e-
ment income p rovided by IORP s.
The penetration rate of the occupational p ension fund
sector continued to decrease in 2018 (28% for EEA
and 21% for the EA) (Figure 4.2). 26,27 For t he majority
of the co untries, the rates d ecreased in 2018, but o ver-
all remained re latively stable. T he highest d ecrease was
observe d in NL (-11 p.p.) and in IS (-7 p.p.). Again, this is
linked to the stark decrease in asset values in 2018. Due
to the widely diverse pension systems in the EEA, pene-
tratio n rates var y significantly acr oss Europe an countries,
also considering t hat the IORP se ctor is still fairly small or
inexistent in anumber of Member St ates.
26 Penetrati on rate is calculated as the total size of assets relat ive to
GDP and gives an indication of t he relative wealt h accumulated by the
27 EEA and EA r egions exclud e FR as 2018 d ata is not ye t available.
AN INSURANCE AND OCCUPATIONAL PENSIONS AUTHORITY