More on the real world

You know, there are times when I wonder is there two worlds in Ireland - one a make believe world, in which developers, FF politicians, NAMA employees, bankers, high end public sector employees and slumlords live, and another, in which the rest of us live.

Today, while investigating on yet another job prospect, which happens to be extremely well paid, I looked a little into pensions.  I eventually found myself on the spectacularly poor PS website on pensions, which was really shocking, but this took the biscuit:

"Target Audiences

The National Pensions Awareness Campaign focuses on the general public and particularly those sectors of the population as identified in the CSO (Central Statistics Office) Pensions Surveys and Updates as having consistently low pension interaction and coverage. These areas where pension awareness and action are low include:

Hospitality – the lowest level of pension coverage of all sectors and highest level of respondents who admitted to having limited knowledge of pensions.

Retail – one of the lowest levels of pension coverage and second highest level of respondents admitting to not knowing about pensions in retirement.

Farming – one of the lowest levels of pension coverage among employees, although this has improved slightly in the past two years and the lowest personal pension coverage among the self-employed.

Women – have lower pension coverage than men at 50% in comparison to 56%; the gap has been tightening since 2002, but continuous promotion is still required.

Population aged 25 – 35 years old – a key target for The Pensions Board, as it is critical that workers start their pension early in their working life in order to ensure they have adequate provision for their retirement.

Young people / graduates – it is important that the pension message reaches people before they start their first job so as to encourage behavioural change towards spending.

International workers – A high percentage of migrant workers do not have a pension.
Um nothing obvious about that?
Anyway, the site, at, continues rambling on, while ignoring something so screamingly obvious to anybody reading the above.

It goes on and on about the need to communicate with the above groups and spread the world, it even quotes CSO documents and other discussions, but it ignores one clear and blatantly obvious fact: the groups above are basically the bottom tier of workers in terms of pay, those who are most likely to be unable to afford to save towards a pension at all, and secondly, those for which the state pension will already contibute close to 50% of their current wage.

Nobody looks at the fact that outside of a small proportion of owners, skilled management and craft-like roles in the hospitality sector, the vast majority are not only on very low wages, they are also likely to remain so for a considerable period.  This isn't like starting a management consulting job on 31k and being on 100k by the time you are 35, these guys will probably spend most of their working lives on maybe 25-30% max over the minimum wage.  Same goes for people in a range of occupations including all of the groups above, and a large chunk of others - such as those in casual employment, heavily underemployed, many women, etc.

Pensions do little for this group, and simply preaching at them is misleading and a waste of resources.  It will add little to their overall retirement pensions and many have far more pressing concerns, including probable major shortfalls in the quality of their accomodation, and making ends meet on a day to day basis.  The money spent on this programme is a massive waste of resources and money, and to ignore the key affordability problem is ignoring the real causes of underprovision for retirement - simple affordability at lower income brackets, and a lack of real benefit.

Now there is a deep rift in willingness to understand the consequences of low wages over a lifetime, and in particular sectors.  While there is talk of decimation of the hotel sectors, the destruction which unfair competition reaped upon traditional B&B sectiors was quickly forgotten as newly built hotels fell on their own swords of massive borrowings.  But passing the buck on misery once again by cutting the minimum wage or JLCs would only reap massive misery on those who already gained little from the so called Tiger decade.


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