Private sector pension membership fell by 11,600 in 2015: Statistics Canada

Assets in registered pension plans were $1.7 trillion in 2015, a three per cent increase from 2014, according to new figures published by Statistics Canada.

Larger pension plans with at least 30,000 members held more than half (55.2 per cent) of the assets. Of those larger plans, 32 account for half of all pension plan membership in Canada.

Total plan membership rose marginally in 2015, up 4,900 from the year before to 6,262,000. Boosting the figure was a rise in public sector plan membership of 16,500, taking its total to 3,229,000. Membership in the private sector decreased, however, falling by 11,600 to 3,032,000.

Read: Market value of Canada’s trusteed pensions continues to grow: Stats Can

The public sector made up just over half (51.6 per cent) of total registered pension plan membership, with women accounting for 63.1 per cent of the members. In the private sector, however, women accounted for just 35.7 per cent of plan membership.

Overall, participation in registered pension plans nearly reached gender parity, with men slightly ahead at 50.2 per cent. Women’s overall participation was at a second consecutive record high at 3,121,000 members, a rise of 8,400 from the year before.

Read: Bridging the pension gender gap

The total proportion of all Canadian employees covered by a registered pension plan edged down slightly, to 37.8 per cent in 2015 from 38.1 per cent in 2014.

The most common coverage option, defined benefit pensions, declined by four per cent in 2015, falling to 67.1 per cent of employees with a registered pension plan. The next largest was membership in defined contribution plans, which rose 2.8 percent to 18 per cent of all membership, predominantly (87.1 per cent) in private sector plans.

Other plan types, including hybrids, have quadrupled in membership over the last decade, according to Statistics Canada’s figures. A significant increase of 19.3 per cent in 2015 put 930,000 people in plans that don’t fit the definition of traditional defined benefit or defined contribution plans.

Read: Pension industry challenged to deliver plans with DB features prized by Canadians

Pension contributions by employers and employees totalled $67.2 billion in 2015, a 5.9 per cent increase over the previous year. Contributions by employers for unfunded liabilities rose to $11.4 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion over 2014. Excluding those payments, employer contributions made of 60 per cent of the total, with employees contributing 40 per cent.