Lessons from abroad: the Netherlands should tell a clear, honest story regarding pensions

In the coming years, all those involved in the Dutch pension reform will have to communicate a crystal-clear and honest story about the transition to a new pension contract. That is one of the lessons pension experts from the independent knowledge network Netspar have learned after analysing nine other countries that have previously undergone major pension reforms. Onno Steenbeek (EUR and APG) and Benne van Popta (Pensioenfonds Detailhandel) will present their findings to Wouter Koolmees of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment on Wednesday, 30 June.


The Netherlands is on the eve of a major and unique transition to a new pension contract. One of the important changes is that, from 2023 to 2027, our country will switch from a situation in which your pension is directly linked to your salary to a situation in which your accrued capital determines how much pension you are expected to receive.

Researchers from the independent knowledge network Netspar analysed the international specialist literature and talked to experts of nine countries where the pension system has been reformed before. These countries are the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Denmark, Chile, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Belgium.

The situation in those countries cannot be compared on a one-to-one basis with that in the Netherlands, but there are certainly parallels to be drawn and lessons to be learned. For example, pension reforms often involve high, sometimes unexpected costs because some groups of society are suddenly in danger of being left out. Denmark, for example, was able to cope with the costs because the sector was very healthy and there was sufficient budget for surprises. In Chile, the economic tide was in favour during the reforms. And Sweden decided not to make the transition to individual pensions completely free, thus reducing choice and costs.

According to pension expert Onno Steenbeek, it is important to show in the communication that much is still unclear: “The road to the final goal is not just a technical implementation. It is a long and winding path where pension funds, regulators, employers and other stakeholders have to build up trust among participants and employers.”

Benne van Popta adds: “In the Netherlands, there is little room to eliminate sharp edges. We may have it technically in good shape by 2026, but society is also changing and we have to prepare for that.”


Transition to a new pension contract in the Netherlands – Lessons from abroad by Benne van Popta and Onno Steenbeek, 2021, Netspar Occasional Paper 03-2021.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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