80% of Canadians would prefer pension improvements over salary increase: HOOPP

Most (80 per cent) Canadians said they’d rather have an improved pension, or any pension, than a higher salary, according to new research by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan.

The survey of 2,500 Canadians found more (75 per cent) respondents are worried about being able to save enough for retirement than are primarily concerned over personal debt (55 per cent). “Canadian public opinion is optimistic, grateful, but increasingly anxious,” said David Coletto, chief executive officer of Abacus Data, at an event in Toronto on Tuesday. His firm worked with the HOOPP on the survey.

“There’s a broad understanding across the country that Canadian pension quality is on the decline,” he said.

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As far as sentiment over the future of pensions in Canada, 81 per cent of respondents said they believe the reduction in workplace pension coverage will affect the overall quality of life for Canadians. And 78 per cent said they believe there’s a moral obligation to ensure Canadian children have the same level and quality of pension coverage as their parents and grandparents had.

Further, 83 per cent said they believe the government should modernize regulations to allow for more innovative plans and other savings schemes, and 76 per cent said they believe the shrinking of workplace pension coverage hurts the economy.

Employers and governments alike bear the brunt of the blame for the decline in pension plan quality, said Coletto. “Canadians understand the scale of the problem and they admit to seeing an emerging crisis.”

Read: Pension plan sponsor appetite strong for new innovative design options

Notably, 73 per cent of survey respondents said they believe companies can afford to provide good pensions regardless of how the economy is doing. “It’s not enough to say, ‘We can’t afford it,'” he said.

Jim Keohane, the HOOPP’s president and CEO, said the plan recognized the need to engage in this research because its discussions with public policy-makers have demonstrated there’s little fact-based research on which to base new policies.

The formation of plans for the private sector that resemble the HOOPP’s design would have the biggest impact to improve the retirement outlook for Canadians, he noted. “We’re not just a manager of pension assets; we take the management from the employer.”

That model could be of great interest to the private sector, said Keohane.

Read: Jim Keohane to retire as CEO of HOOPP in 2020