Minister Donohoe publishes actuarial review of public service pension liabilities 

3rd January, 2024

The Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, T.D. briefed Government on the findings of an Actuarial Review of the State’s Accrued Liability in respect of Public Service Occupational Pensions in Ireland.  This process occurs every 3 years as required under EU rules. 

The value of the State’s Accrued Liability in respect of retirement benefits for current and former public service employees is estimated as €175.7bn as at 31st December 2021. This figure represents the value, in “today’s money” terms, of all expected future superannuation benefit payments arising from accrued service to 31st December 2021. 

The increase in the reported obligation since the last review can be attributed to a number of factors including a technical revaluation of the obligations due to a change in prescribed assumptions by Eurostat. 

The natural ageing of current and former employees as well as the accrual of additional benefits by current employees, including new staff, also increases the accrued liability. The growth in the size of the public service also has implications for the evolution of the State’s long-term pension liabilities. In this regard, it is noted that the public service has grown from 330,576 in Q4 2018 to 365,858 by Q4 2021. Public Service numbers have since further grown to 389,070. 

The cost of public service occupational pensions is expected to increase from 1.0% of GDP in 2022 to 1.1% of GDP by 2040. However, the cost is expected to reduce thereafter with a cost of 0.7% of GDP expected by 2070 reflecting measures taken to mitigate costs. 

The Minister speaking today stated that:

“The public service undoubtedly plays a significant role to the overall well-being of the country.

“Pension benefits are an important part of the remuneration of public servants and the overall process of the recruitment and retention of staff.  It is imperative that we have a clear picture of the value of these benefits and that is provided by this report which covers the future entitlements of employees across vital areas such the Health and Education sectors, An Garda Síochána, Civil Service, Defence Forces, Local Authorities and Non-Commercial State Sponsored Bodies. 

“While the overall figure is undoubtedly large, it is important to bear in mind that the accrued liability will be paid over the next 70 years or so. It is also important to highlight that a number of significant steps have been taken to improve the long-term sustainability of public service pensions, including the Single Public Service Pension Scheme introduced for new entrants from 2013, which will in time, reduce liabilities by around 25% from what would otherwise have been the case. 

“Current public sector employees make a significant contribution to funding the overall cost of benefits provided amounting to €1.7 billion in 2022, including the Additional Superannuation Contribution by public servants introduced under the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017. This figure is up from €1bn per annum prior to the introduction of the Act. This provides substantial additional ongoing funding support towards the cost of public service pensions from those that benefit from such pensions. Importantly, it is worth noting that benefit terms for public service employees have not been improved over the period.

In addition, there has been an increase in the compulsory retirement age from 65 to 70 for public servants recruited before 1st April 2004. This will also assist in reducing the time period over which pension payments will be paid to those public service employees who opt to remain in work longer.” 




Notes for Editors

The Actuarial Review meets the requirement of placing a value on the accrued pension entitlements for current and former public service employees as part of the National Accounts, as required under EU regulation 549 / 2013. 

This requirement was introduced for all EU countries to allow for improved analysis and international comparability of existing pension systems within and between countries under the System of National Accounts (SNA, 2008) and European System of Accounts (ESA, 2010).

The methodology and assumptions used for the valuation follow those recommended by Eurostat and the European Central Bank. The assumptions adopted broadly coincide with those produced by the European Commission for the purpose of the Ageing Report 2024 with the exception of the mortality assumptions. The mortality tables used reflect the mortality experience of pensioners of occupational pension schemes in Ireland.

The increase in the State’s liability from €149.6bn in 2018 to €175.7bn in 2021 can be attributed to a number of factors including a change in the assumptions (€15.8bn), notably an increase in the future inflation and salary inflation assumptions. Significant other drivers of the increase include the natural ageing of current and former employees and the additional accrual of service by employees over the period. Importantly, benefit terms for public service employees have not been improved over the period.

The total actual expenditure on public service pensions amounted to €4.5bn in 2022, while member contributions and the Additional Superannuation Contribution (ASC) amounted to approximately €1.7bn over the year.