Program 5. Institutions, Governance and Solidarity
The final program focuses on the institutional aspects of pensions and other old age provisions. In the area of pensions, especially, because of their long-term nature, reliable institutions are an indispensable part of making the contracts possible. Pension governance is one of the key themes. Current benefits agreements provide considerable room for discretionary decision-making on the part of pension fund boards. This “social contract” has the benefit of allowing the funds to respond agilely to unforeseen developments. It also provides the capacity for distributing risks that cannot be dealt with through the market. However, the attendant requirements in terms of trust and solidarity among participants are high. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the “financial contract” that prescribes near complete ownership rights. Research is needed (e.g., contract theory, sociological–institutional analysis) to provide further insight into the tenability of both contracts.
The questions surrounding tenability, governance, and regulatory supervision apply equally to individual contracts supplied through the market. The greater number of options and rise of choice architecture design have placed the issues of information provision, advice, and fiduciary duty at the top of the agenda, including questions about the regulation of the various parties. To what extent are the various players able or willing to be responsible for the fiduciary duty associated with these complex issues? On top of all this are questions about the role pension funds, insurers, and corporations might play in the domain of healthcare and housing.
The emphasis in this program is on the cohesion within the system as a whole. The government establishes frameworks with tax policies, legislation, and regulatory bodies. These frameworks are not fixed, but must rather be constantly adapted to the changing social environment, including an aging population, increasingly vocal citizenry, and fluctuating labor market and labor relations. Comparative international research and scenario analysis—along with historical research—can serve to place the problems associated with retirement in the Netherlands within a broader context.