Readings on reform: The pension system in flux (Web Sight)

Changes needed before it’s too late • A history of pension reform • A union point of view • Comparing systems
By Shannon Simson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/08/2004

Pension system reform is a topic of interest among plan sponsors and one that never seems to go away. The pension system has changed, and will continue to evolve, but the changes come slowly and are hard-fought and hard-won. The following sites offer ways to keep tapped into the debate.

Changes needed before it’s too late

http://www.cga-canada.org/eng/magazine/sep-oct04/perspective_e.htm

This recent article from

CGA Magazine

(a publication for chartered general accountants) warns of an impending crisis in Canada’s pension system and calls for employees, employers and regulators to “realize the need for greater transparency and accountability within the country’s teetering defined benefits pension plans.” The author points out that “a comprehensive research report released in June by CGA-Canada found that nearly 60 per cent of defined benefit pension plans are in deficits to the tune of $160 billion. He cites Air Canada and Stelco as examples of what happens when companies run pensions at a deficit, and urges stakeholders to sit up, take notice and make the necessary reforms before it’s too late.

A history of pension reform

http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~sedap/p/sedap111.pdf

This research paper looks at Canadian pension reform in 1990s and highlights four characteristics of the Canadian system that contributed to its relative stability over other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations going through similar trials with their pension systems. The paper itself is a little older (from 2003), but the historical points it makes are interesting and worth consideration.

A union point of view

www.clc-ctc.ca

The Canadian Labour Congress includes a number of national and international unions in Canada, 12 provincial and territorial federations and 137 district labour councils, and represents 2.5 million unionized workers. The website features a pension newsletter to keep readers updated, and also a “Pensions and Retirement” section that offers a number of papers and research, all of which can be found by clicking on the “Issues” button at the top of the main screen, and then selecting “Social and Economic Policy” from the resulting drop-down list. Look up information on labour councils, unions, federations and other national and international resources by searching the “Links” section also located at the top of the screen. Visitors can sign up to receive notification of news updates by entering their e-mail address and clicking “Subscribe.”

Comparing systems

www.reformmonitor.org

The Bertelsmann Foundation’s International Reform Monitor website is a great source of information on issues such as social policy (including health care, pensions provision), labour market policy and industrial relations in Canada and 14 other OECD member countries. The project aims to “identify promising systems and above all, innovative ideas for reform as early as possible in order to provide valuable input for social and political debate.” From the menu on the left, click on “The Project.” This opens up a number of options. The “Reforms” option calls up a page where Canadian pension reform information can be found by clicking on “Canada” and “Pensions Provision.” Instead of following the “Reforms” option, follow the “Research” option to pull up a number of studies. The site also features a semi-annual newsletter and is fairly easy to navigate, but keep an eye out for new items on the left hand menu depending on the screen.

Shannon Simson is Canadian HR Reporter’s resource editor. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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