Project groups

Netspar brings together pension and retirement experts from the industry and academia to examine current issues from their diverse backgrounds. These project groups outline various considerations, search for common objectives, explore new fields of research, and sketch out future scenarios. Thanks to this broad scope, the project groups produce valuable insights, and often recommendations, as well, for policymakers.

The Foundation Board provides recommendations every year on what project groups should be formed. The Partner Research Council (PRC) formulates potential topics using the Netspar Research Agenda 2023-2027 as a starting point.

Existing Project Groups

    • Integration of sustainability – and risk preferences. 

    The new Dutch law on pensions is the official go-ahead to involve risk preference research and risk attitudes in shaping the new pension  scheme and associated investment policy.  At the same time, the wish for sustainable investments is an important aspect of investment portfolio design.  In this context, partipant surveys on sustainability preferences are often conducted.  Investment choices have a trade-off in the relationship between risk and return.   In recent studies the possibility that investors also have sustainablity preferences have been taken into account.  The question therefore arises to what extent it is possible and desirable to integrate sustainability preferences into risk preference research (or to measure it simultaneously). In this projectgroup, we make an attempt to link the two and consider whether it is appropriate to conduct specific research.

  • Pensions and Divorce
    A divorce (or termination of a domestic partnership) has a big impact on the pension of participants and their partners. The applicable legal framework is outlined in the Dutch Settlement of Pension Entitlements in the Event of Divorce Act (VPS Act) and the Pensions Act. The central question in this project is about the practical implications for pension participants and pension providers of the 2021 Pension Distribution in the Event of Divorce draft legislation. We analyze the developments in pensions and divorce in a broader context and make recommendations for the pension field, with a focus on the individual.

Completed Project Groups

  • Best Governance Model after the Transition

Current legislation allows companies to choose from a variety of governance models, giving them the required level of flexibility in this regard. Meanwhile, a new pension contract is being introduced with the Future of Pensions Act (Wet Toekomst Pensioenen, or WTP). One question this raises is whether the changes in terms of responsibilities have implications for pension fund governance. Do the current governance models provide enough options for incorporating the developments of the new contract? While the changes in terms of responsibilities are related to the pension contract, the new contract also has implications for the material nature of pension funds. Under the new system, they will become more like investment funds (assets only) than is now the case. Reason enough to start including the legally prescribed governance standards for investment funds (e.g., the AIFMD, but also the duties and responsibilities of internal oversight) in our research efforts. Will those statutory governance standards automatically apply for pension funds? Equally important is the question of how to best incorporate input from pension participants, who must increasingly bear the risk in the end.

  • Guidance and Advice in Pension Options: What Role Can Pension Funds and Insurers Play?

During and after the transition, there will be a greater need for advice and guidance for participants choosing between pension options. On the one hand, the financial position of households is changing, with a greater degree of heterogeneity in terms of such things as employment status, income growth, family composition, preferences, and goals. On the other hand, the context in which participants build their pension will change. Risks will be more directly borne by the individual participant and there will be more room for individual choice. In the short term, for instance, there will now be a new option upon retirement in terms of the “lump sum payout.” In addition, the “guided selection” standard is being introduced. In light of all these changes, it is worth delineating the metrics any good advice should meet and how pension funds and insurers can advise and guide participants after the transition. The project group will approach the issue from two sides, starting with ascertaining the kinds of guidance and consultation that are possible and needed when making pension decisions. Read the report (Dutch).

  • Blank spots/self-employed with no pension accrual
    This project group will explore the opportunities the new pension scheme offers for reducing the size of the blank spots. In doing so we also look at improving the pension accrual for freelancers. There is broad social support for all working people – all employees and all freelancers – receiving an adequate old age pension, but despite a wealth of research and numerous reports there has yet to be a major breakthrough. The size of the blank spot of employees without any pension accrual is even increasing. Although the legal position of a freelancer is substantially different from that of an employee, it is clear that in both groups the risks of no pension accrual mainly arise at the lower end of the market.  The size of the blank (and possibly grey) spots is growing: the pension position of many freelancers remains vulnerable. The project group can decide for itself the extent to which both blank spots (employees and freelancers) are dealt with, or whether the focus will only be on one of them.  Read the report (Dutch).
  • Explainability: understanding, acceptance and satisfaction
    In this project group we  focus on the following questions: What opportunities and risks are there in striving towards understanding of the new pension scheme? What opportunities and risks are there in striving towards acceptance of the new pension scheme? To what extent does the communication on the introduction of the scheme have consequences for satisfaction in the longer term? Read the report (Dutch,  abstract in English).
  • Socially responsible pension investment
    In a broad context this project group can develop a conceptual framework highlighting the role and responsibility of institutional pension investors in the Netherlands in both economic and legal terms. Within this conceptual framework it would also be possible to consider the ethical aspect of these long-term decisions, as well as the governance side, particularly in light of the prudent person principle whereby the institutional investor invests in the interests of the pension participant. That raises a number of questions that recur regularly in different forms: This project is an exploration of the horizon, albeit that steps already taken in society mean that in some areas it is actually possible to think further and go beyond a ‘mere’ exploration.  When implementing the investment policy, is the institutional pension investor permitted to take other factors into account besides risk-return considerations?If so, what factors are these and under what conditions is this allowed? Read the report (Dutch,  abstract in English).
  • Responsibility allocation for planning pension provision
    The new pension system is expected to take effect around 2026. What are the consequences of the system changes in the longer term by way of scenarios for 2036 and beyond? The scenarios focus on people who build up their pensions. In most scenarios, tech companies are important, but the government, pension providers and other parties also see their roles change. The parties involved must ensure that they act ethically, even or especially if they make use of the tech companies’ technology. Therefore, it can be beneficial to embed ethics in legislation and regulations at an early stage. Read the report (Dutch,  abstract in English). 
  • The Labor Market and Retirement
    The central question of this project is if and how existing and potential long-term developments in the labor market affect pensions and retirement. Developments such as technological advancements, globalization, and greater flexibility have consequences for the way in which labor relations are structured. Moreover, changes in labor relations have implications for the current pension system and the options and desires workers have with regard to their pensions and retirement. The project group outlines a number of scenarios for the pension system of the future based on analysis of the developments to date, insights from the literature, and innovative data analyses. Read the report (Dutch, abstract in English). 
  • Flexible Retirement
    Greater flexibility in terms of transitioning from work to retirement can have positive effects on health, job and general satisfaction, and long-term job proficiency. The Netspar Flexible Retirement project group analyzed the potential for, and bottlenecks of, flexible retirement and presented some policy considerations. Read the report (in Dutch).
  • Changing Role of Pension Providers in the Era of Big Data
    The lightning speed of developments in the field of big data and data science has a growing influence on our daily lives. This has serious implications for the pension industry. This project group analyzed what kinds of considerations pension providers might use in their strategic planning. Read the review of the Thematic Conference on this topic. Read the report (in Dutch).
  • Survivors Pension: Fragmented Design Complicates Risks
    Besides its obvious emotional impact, death also has financial consequences. Some of the major associated risks are little known or discussed, and there has been almost no attention paid to survivors pensions in the discussions surrounding the new pension contract. Reason enough to shine a light on the provisions for surviving dependents in the Netherlands. Read the report and the Netspar Brief ‘Survivors pension no longer assured’.
  • Housing, Healthcare, Retirement Require Comprehensive Approach
    Pensions and retirement savings are increasingly viewed as the central component of financial planning for old age. Yet, housing and healthcare also play an important role, each in their own way. A comprehensive approach can offer benefits for households in terms of their financial planning for retirement by including housing, healthcare, and pensions in the overall picture. Read the report (in Dutch).

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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