Collective Pensions and the Global Financial Crisis: The Case of the Netherlands

Lans Bovenberg and Theo Nijman

Abstract — The global financial crisis triggered a major redesign of the collective pension system in the Netherlands. The current Dutch system can be characterized as a defined benefit system with nominal guarantees, which are increased in line with inflation if investment returns are satisfactory. The crisis has shown that cuts in nominal benefits cannot be excluded because investment policy does not defend the nominal guarantees. In the redesigned contract, pension incomes depend more explicitly on the investment returns with lower guarantee levels that are defended in case of low investment returns. Allowing some individual choice with respect to risk taking is currently under discussion. As a side effect of adjusting the contract in the light of the financial crisis, funds no longer insure workers against systematic longevity risk during the accumulation phase. The chapter analyzes the pros and cons of these adjustments to the contract.