Pensions aim to maintain the living standards of older people and protect them from poverty. They are the main source of income for about one quarter of the EU population.
The European Pillar of Social Rights stresses in its Principle 15:
- the right of workers and the self-employed to a pension commensurate with contributions and ensuring an adequate income
- the right to equal opportunities to acquire pension rights for both women and men
- the right to resources that ensure living in dignity in old age.
The share of older people in Europe's population is increasing along with life expectancy. European pension systems will need to adapt to remain able to provide future generations of retirees with an adequate income.
Pensioners in most EU countries are more likely to be poor than those who work and inequality among pensioners persists:
- There are significant country differences in poverty risk and pension income.
- Older women face a higher risk of poverty or social exclusion than older men do, and women's pensions are almost a third lower on average.
- People in non-standard or self-employment often face less favourable conditions for accessing and accruing pension rights than those in open-ended, full-time job contracts.
While pension policy and legislation is decided and implemented predominantly at national level, EU legislation protects the pension rights of people who move between EU countries. Social security coordination ensures cross-border protection of state pensions, while the right of mobile workers to supplementary pensions is protected by special rules.
Furthermore, the EU supports national efforts to ensure a high level of social protection, including pension adequacy, by facilitating mutual learning and exchange of best practices.
This support includes:
- The triennial Pension Adequacy Report of the Commission and the Social Protection Committee provides an overview of pension policies, focusing on the adequacy of old-age incomes today and in the future. Volume II provides a description of the pension system and pension adequacy in each of the 27 Member States. The key conclusions of the 2021 report were endorsed by the EU Council on 14 June 2021 and discussed with policy mmakers, social partners, stakeholders and experts at the international conference Pension adequacy in an ageing society.
- The High-level group of experts on supplementary pensions analysed the potential contribution of supplementary (occupational and personal) pensions to adequate old-age incomes and adopted its final report in December 2019.
- The Commission provides financial support to projects that aim to boost policy-making at national level or to help citizens access information on their pension rights, such as the European Tracking Service for pensions.
- Addressing broad population ageing challenges, the Commission also fosters Active Ageing, via its guiding principles for active ageing , the Active Ageing Index, a policy advocacy and monitoring tool, the European Innovation Partnership for Active and Health Ageing, which fosters innovation, and provides funding. It also support the work of partner organisations, for instance the social partner autonomous agreement, and the covenant on demographic change.
- In 2022 the Social Protection Committee approved a benchmarking framework on pension adequacy to support the implementation of principle 15 of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
The EU also provides country analysis and guidance, including on pension policies, within the European Semester economic coordination cycle. Support to national pension reform measures is available from the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Technical Support Instrument.