Guest commentary on establishing a European Pension Tracking Service (ETS).

von/by Claudia Wegner-Wahnschaffe, Versorgungsanstalt des Bundes und der Länder/Pension Institution of the Federal Republic and Länder (VBL) – 11/2018

Given the age pyramid and the issue of pension adequacy in the future, it is becoming increasingly important for workers to be well-informed about old-age pensions and to have an overview of their individual pension entitlements. This is a big challenge for many people, because the topic is complex, and information about pensions often contains technical terms and is not easy to understand.

The situation is particularly difficult for mobile workers who have acquired pension rights while working in different countries. It is difficult enough for these workers to keep track of their existing entitlements, let alone try to estimate what the situation will be like in their old age. Researchers are particularly affected because they often work in temporary employment contracts of less than three years and then change their research institution.

For many years, the FindyourPension project has offered support to this occupational group with a wide range of information and the possibility to save their own pension history on the website under ‘MyTrack’. The project is an initiative of the Pension Institution of the Federal Republic and Länder (VBL) and has been funded since 2011 by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research with the support of many pension funds and providers across Europe.

The feedback from mobile users is consistently positive. Approximately 1,800 researchers have received training as part of the consultation days regularly conducted at research institutes by the project team in cooperation with staff from the German Pension Fund for Miners, Railway Workers and Seafarers. This direct feedback also means that we have been able to identify room for improvement. As a result, the FindyourPension website has just been updated and went online with a new look in October. The interface is now more user-friendly, and the search function has been expanded so that users can search by country and pension scheme without first having to enter an employer.

A target group only has to be selected if this is necessary to classify the responsible pension institution according to work status of the beneficiary or other user characteristics. In order to increase awareness and to reach as many other users as possible, FindyourPension has also been on Twitter since November this year:

Different user perspectives

The new website also introduces a user-friendly design that is based on layers. The first basic layer is aimed at users who have little prior knowledge of old-age pensions and simply want to get an overview of all relevant information. Users who want more detailed information can access the second advanced layer via the Pension ABCs section of the website. These are in FAQ format and are divided into three life situations. The advanced layer is almost finished and available online. The basic layer is still being created and will be published on the website in stages.

FindyourPension Icons

Following the example of the usual information standards for products, icons are used in the basic layer to present the contents in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. They make it possible to find, classify and compare information. The icons only represent the key questions or information of the pension schemes listed.

For all mobile workers in Europe

In recent years, a network of over 50 pension scheme providers and institutions has grown. This cooperation has also resulted in close contact with some national pension tracking services and the members of the former TTYPE project, which examined and confirmed the feasibility of a European Pension Tracking Service (ETS). Whenever we presented the FYP website, we were asked why it was limited to mobile researchers.

After two years of intensive collaboration with some of the TTYPE participants and four other well-known partners, this year we have successfully launched a joint project proposal as part of the PROGRESS axis of the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), (Call for proposals on social innovation and national reforms).

Under the proposal, the results from TTYPE and the current FindyourPension initiative and website will be used to start constructing an ETS. During the three-year project period, a pilot will be created and a host organisation will be established. In addition to the VBL and the European association AEIP, participants in the project include the Belgian Federal Pensions Service (FPS) and Sigedis, Dutch partners PGGM and APG (large occupational pension funds), and Swedish partners the Swedish Pensions Agency and the Swedish tracking service

To ensure the exchange of pension information across pillars for mobile workers in Europe, all pension sources and pillars need to work together. As is well known, beneficiaries make little or no distinction between the various pillars. They want to know which entitlements they have already acquired and what they can expect when they retire. For mobile workers, it would be far easier to get this from one location and not have to laboriously search for their individual entitlements across countries and pillars.

Cross-border identification and authentication of users will gradually become possible over the next few years via the interoperability of eIDs. At the same time, the Single Digital Gateway will make it necessary to provide access to individual information online, including state pension schemes. These developments will also facilitate tracking and information across pillars for mobile workers as part of the ETS. This will not only benefit the European pension platform but also national services and pension providers.

About the VBL

The Pension Institution of the Federal Republic and Länder (VBL) is the largest supplier of supplementary pensions in Germany. For more than 85 years, employers in the public service have entrusted the VBL with managing their employee pension schemes. Currently, the VBL pays out monthly pensions to around 1.3 million retirees. Around 4.4 million people have compulsory insurance with VBLklassik. In addition to this standard pension, the VBL offers a supplementary pension based on VBLklassik, called VBLextra. This allows members to make their own additional contributions and better secure their standard of living in old age.