I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 31 and 40 together.
As stated in the 'The Roadmap for Pensions Reform', the Government proposes to begin implementation of a supplementary retirement savings system, known as Automatic Enrolment, by 2022. It will see employees without personal retirement savings automatically enrolled into a quality assured retirement savings system, with freedom of choice to opt-out.
I was pleased to launch 'A Strawman Public Consultation Process for an Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System in Ireland' last August as the basis for a national public consultation. I have said that the Strawman should not be construed as a confirmation of what form this system will ultimately take. The Strawman is a high level draft intended to generate and prompt discussion and improve ideas.
In excess of one hundred written submissions were received in response to the Strawman from employer and employee representatives, pensions industry bodies, advocacy groups and interested individuals. My officials have met with many of these groups. I also chaired a number of public consultation seminars held in Dublin, Galway and Cork. Most recently, in March, a series of focus groups was held with the target population for automatic enrolment.
Overall, the responses to the Strawman have been positive and constructive. In the vast majority of cases, our proposals were welcomed and nearly every stakeholder agreed with most of the design features. However, there have been diverging and conflicting views from stakeholders on some of the specific aspects at a more detailed level.
My Department is continuing to analyse the substantial material collated from the consultation process, in order to determine how the feedback received may assist with the design process. Furthermore, my Department is continuing its research and consultation with experts from around the world.
My Department has also commissioned the ESRI to examine the potential macro and micro-economic impacts of automatic enrolment. Part of the analysis being undertaken by the ESRI includes the impact of reducing the earnings threshold on the composition of the target population for automatic enrolment, including the gender impact. Any decision on the earnings threshold for automatic enrolment will need to balance the benefits of enrolment with concerns regarding affordability.
It is anticipated that reports of findings from the consultation process - including how it impacts on the Strawman proposals - and the research being undertaken will be brought to Government in the coming months. These reports will assist the Government in making decisions as to the next steps for implementation to enable the scheme to commence, as planned, in 2022.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputies.