Research by the Central Statistics Office on pensions coverage indicated that just over 50% of workers have supplementary pensions cover. The Government aims to increase this to 70% in accordance with the targets suggested in the national pensions policy initiative. The overall objective of the Government's pension policy is that all citizens will have an adequate income on retirement — the main components being the social welfare pension and supplementary pensions.
In this regard the Pensions (Amendment) Act 2002 provided for the introduction of personal retirement savings accounts, PRSAs, which became available to the public in 2003. The PRSA is a low cost, flexible pensions product which is the main instrument employed in furtherance of Government policy to increase supplementary pensions coverage. Take up of the new accounts is being monitored closely and I am encouraged by the latest figures which show that over 19,000 accounts were opened in the period up to the end of December 2003. This is a significant improvement on the position at the end of September 2003 when a total of 6,707 accounts were in existence.
The Government is required, under the Pensions (Amendment) Act 2002, to review progress on the level of pension coverage within three years and this will include an examination of pension options for lower income groups.