British pension funds are ramping up their investment in Chinese companies despite growing tensions between the West and the Communist state.
According to a new report by Hong Kong Watch, a pro-democracy advocacy group, the amount of cash invested by Western pension funds and other institutional investors in China has hit a record high in recent months.
It comes amid rising criticism in the West about China’s human rights record, including its brutal treatment of Uighur Muslims and its suppression of democracy campaigners in Hong Kong.
The report cites the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), one of the UK’s largest private pension schemes, and Legal & General, Britain’s biggest pensions manager, as two British firms with “problematic” investments in China.
It found that L&G’s China fund was previously investing UK pensions in Zhejiang Dahua Technology, which is alleged to produce facial recognition software for the Communist Party that detects the race of individuals and alerts the police when it identifies Uighur Muslims.
L&G has since divested from Zhejiang Dahua Technology.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will urge UK pension schemes to back Britain’s “entrepreneurial spirit” with billions of pounds of savers’ funds to fuel the economy’s post-pandemic recovery in a message to investment bosses.
The prime minister and chancellor will issue a joint call to action on Thursday aimed at “igniting an investment big bang” that would “unlock the hundreds of billions of pounds sitting in UK institutions”.
Citing the success of long-term investment programmes by Australian and Canadian pension schemes, Sunak and Johnson will say that British pensioners are missing out on “better retirements” after investors focused too heavily on the returns from stock market listed companies.
Critics warned that pension schemes would become riskier and more expensive to run and accused the prime minister of failing to understand how they worked.
John Ralfe, an independent pensions consultant, said: “This is 90% hot air from the prime minister.
“Defined benefit pension schemes need assets that generate a guaranteed inflation linked return to pay guaranteed pensions. Most of the things the PM is banging the drum for don’t do this.
Advocates for restoring pension payments to retirees of shuttered Catholic healthcare facilities, including St. Clare’s Hospital, have launched another effort, now that the state is led by a new governor.
In a bipartisan move, state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Mary Hartshorne, chairwoman of the St. Clare’s Pensioners Recovery Alliance, wrote to Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday, asking for her consideration on the matter.
The legislators’ letter said the pensions of more than 1,100 New Yorkers “evaporated in the snap of a finger, through no fault of their own.” This is no way to treat healthcare workers, they said.
Since federal law permits a religious exemption, the St. Clare’s pension fund has no benefit guarantee insurance because federal law permits a religious exemption, the lawmakers’ letter to the governor reads.
For reasons not yet fully identified, the lawmakers said, the state did not provide ample funding to cover the St. Clare’s pension fund’s costs.
Mega-Roth, backdoor IRAs and large retirement account balances would be limited under legislation approved Sept. 15 by the House Ways and Means Committee.
In a near party-line vote of 24-19, the changes were approved as part of the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act reconciliation recommendations that address everything from implementing infrastructure development and green energy incentives, to expanding Medicare, offering paid family and medical leave, and extending Trade Adjustment Assistance.
These revenue-raising retirement proposals are included in Subtitle I, “Responsibly Funding Our Priorities,” along with a host of other individual and corporate tax increases. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that these tax changes would raise approximately $2.1 trillion over 10 years to help pay for the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation bill. (For a more detailed description of the retirement-based revenue proposals, click here.)
Author(s): Ted Godbout
Publication Date: 16 Sept 2021
Publication Site: American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries
Spain will pay workers to postpone retirement as part of a pensions reform strategy that analysts warn does not go far enough to cut a huge deficit in the system.
With nearly 30 billion euros ($36 billion) of annual losses in 2020 and rising, Spain’s social security budget is one of the biggest contributors to the country’s ballooning public deficit.
The European Commission has long demanded that Spain reform its pension system and has made it a condition for accessing European Union economic recovery funds.
Under a planned reform unveiled earlier this month that aims to get more people to work longer, Spain will give cheques worth up to 12,000 euros ($14,000) per year to retirement-age workers who postpone their retirement.
The 2013 reform also gradually increased the legal retirement age to reach 67 in 2027 from around 65 years currently.
Jordi Fabregat of the Esade business school said part of the problem is that Spain offers generous public pensions, with monthly payments amounting to 80 percent of a worker’s final salary compared with an average of 55 percent for all of Europe.
The youth chapter of the PLR (FDP) has successfully collected enough signatures for an initiative to raise the official retirement age in Switzerland to 66 years old, reported RTS.
On 16 July 2021, initiative organisers submitted 145,000 voter signatures as part of the formal process of launching a referendum in Switzerland. Under referendum rules a minimum of 100,000 valid signatures must be collected within 18 months.
The official retirement age in Switzerland is currently 65 for men and 64 for women, although the government recently passed laws to create a universal retirement age of 65 for both men and women. The federal government also agreed to increase VAT up to 8% to help improve pension system finances.
The perilous state of Switzerland’s state pension system is well known. People are living longer and the nation’s population is ageing, leaving fewer working-age tax payers to fund the pensions of a rising number of retirees. Without reform a funding shortfall of CHF 200 billion is forecast over the next 25 years.
Thousands marched in Bern on Saturday against a proposed reforms of the Swiss old-age pension scheme, notably the plan to raise the retirement age for women from 64 to 65.
The demonstration, which was authorised by Bern authorities, was attended by some 15,000 people, according to the trade unions who organised it; the police have not (yet) released estimates.
The protest took place under the slogan “hands off our pensions”, and was clearly aimed at parliamentarians currently discussing an overhaul of the country’s three-pillar system.
A press release by the Trade Union Federation said that the current pension system is “no longer enough to live on” and that politicians should be raising payments rather than trying to cut them; as for making women work a year longer, this is a non-runner, it says, given the years of part-time and unpaid work they do during their active lives.
The received wisdom among economists is that the US’s historical low interests rates are driven by high savings by aging boomers who are getting ready for, or in, retirement.
The idea is boomers have salted away so much cash that banks don’t bid for their savings, so interest rates fall.
But at last week’s Jackson Hole conference, a trio of economists presented a very different explanation for low interest, one that better fits the facts.
So we can’t really say that low interest rates are being caused by an aging population with high retirement savings, because while the US population is aging, it does not have high savings. Quite the contrary.
And, as Robert Armstrong points out in his analysis of the paper for the Financial Times, even in places like Japan, with large cohorts of retirees and near-retirees who do have adequate savings, rates are scraping bottom.
So why are rates so low? Well, the paper says it is being caused by high levels of savings — just not aging boomers’ savings. Rather, it’s the savings of the ultra-wealthy, the 1%, who are sitting on mountains of unproductive capital, chasing returns.
Inequality in the ownership of financial assets both persists and deepens over time. The top five percent of Baby Boomers by net worth owned a greater percentage of that generation’s financial assets in 2019 (58 percent) than in 2004 (52 percent).
Inequality in the ownership of financial assets is consistent across generations. In 2019, the top 25 percent by net worth of Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers owned three-quarters or more of their generation’s financial assets.
Financial asset ownership is highly concentrated among white households. In 2019, white households in all three generations owned three-quarters or more of their generation’s financial assets. Ownership is especially concentrated among white households in the top 25 percent of net worth.
Both mean and median financial assets were significantly higher for white households in 2019 than Black or Hispanic households.
A range of potential solutions exists to address this stark inequality including strengthening and expanding Social Security, protecting pensions, increasing access to savings-based plans for low-income workers, and reforming retirement tax incentives.
Author(s): Tyler Bond
Publication Date: September 2021
Publication Site: National Institute on Retirement Security
The Actuarial Standards Board of the American Academy of Actuaries recently approved a third exposure draft of a proposed revision of Actuarial Standard of Practice (ASOP) No. 4, Measuring Pension Obligations and Determining Pension Plan Costs or Contributions. The standard provides guidance to actuaries when performing actuarial services with respect to measuring obligations under a defined benefit pension plan and determining periodic costs or actuarially determined contributions for such plans. The standard addresses broader measurement issues, including cost allocation procedures and contribution allocation procedures. The standard also provides guidance for coordinating and integrating all of the elements of an actuarial valuation of a pension plan.
The comment deadline for the third exposure draft is Oct. 15, 2021. Information on how to submit comments can be found in the exposure draft.
At present, the state pension increases each year in line with the rising cost of living seen in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation, increasing average wages, or 2.5%, whichever is highest.
As people come off furlough and return to full pay, this is recorded as a large rise in average earnings. Job losses have also affected those in low-paid work too.
This leads to a unique situation, and one which economists describe as an anomaly.
Predictions by the Bank of England suggest that average earnings could go up by 8%, hence the equivalent rise in the state pension.