Category Archives: Pension Funds

Postdoc for DEEPEN Project

I am looking for a postdoctoral researcher to join the NORFACE-funded project  “Democratic Governance of Funded Pension Schemes.” Applications can be submitted until June 23 via the Leiden University website.

Post-Doctoral researcher for the NORFACE project  “Democratic Governance of Funded Pension Schemes

Description of the vacancy

Leiden University’s Institute of Public Administration is looking for a post-doctoral researcher to join the research project “Democratic Governance of Funded Pension Schemes” (DEEPEN) for a period of three years at 1.0 FTE. This position is made possible by a grant from the New Opportunities for Research Funding Agency Cooperation in Europe (NORFACE) Network. The project explores the democratic governance of capital-funded occupational pension schemes and investigates how governments, regulators and labor market actors govern funded pensions and whether participants are satisfied with pension fund performance. The project focuses on Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Spain. The project combines quantitative analysis of survey data with comparative case studies based on elite and expert interviews and analysis of primary and secondary documents.

The postdoc will be part of the research team at Leiden University, led by Dr. Natascha van der Zwan. Other research teams are based in Austria, Ireland and Spain. The postdoc will conduct case studies of selected occupational pension schemes in the Netherlands to investigate the decision-making processes that link welfare provisions to financial markets. The postdoc will also contribute to comparative research on the regulatory context of occupational pensions in the project countries.

Key responsibilities

  • Conduct independent and collaborative research on the democratic governance of capital-funded occupational pension schemes;
  • Conduct elite and expert interviews in the Netherlands to gather information on the individual cases selected for analysis;
  • Collect and analyse information on the regulatory context of occupational pension provisions in the Netherlands;
  • Disseminate the project’s findings as co-author in high-ranking international peer-reviewed journals, conference presentations, policy reports and other relevant formats;
  • Collaborate in presenting the project to key stakeholders, academics and policymakers/practitioners working on occupational pensions.

 Selection criteria

  • Candidates hold a PhD in political science, sociology, economics, organization studies, geography or another relevant discipline;
  • Candidates have a strong command of qualitative research methods;
  • Candidates have a promising publication record that includes publications in international refereed journals;
  • Candidates have a proven ability to communicate research findings to non-academic audiences, e.g. through publications aimed at a broader audience, media work, etc;
  • In addition to proficiency in English, a good command of Dutch is considered an important asset. Project responsibilities include conducting elite and expert interviews in the Netherlands.

Our organization

The Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs (FGGA) offers academic education in the field of Public Administration, Safety and Security, and International Relations, as well as in-depth post-academic programmes for professionals. In addition, the Faculty is also home to Leiden University College.

See: http://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/governance-and-global-affairs

Our institute 

The Institute of Public Administration has an established international profile and has consistently received high ratings in peer reviews of both its teaching and research programs. The Institute offers a Dutch-language Bachelor program with two tracks, a Dutch-language Master Program in Public Sector Management and an English-language Master programs in ‘Public Administration.’

http://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/governance-and-global-affairs/institute-of-public-administration

Terms and conditions

The position starts between 1 October 2020 and 1 December 2020. The appointment will be made initially on a one-year full-time basis, with an extension to a total of three years after positive evaluation. The appointment will be under the terms of the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) of Dutch Universities. The starting salary, depending on qualifications and experience, varies from € 2.709,-to € 4.274 gross per month (pay scale 10) in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities.

Information with respect to conditions of employment of the University can be found on http://staff.leiden.edu/

Excellent benefits

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %). Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

See https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/working-at/job-application-procedure-and-employment-conditions.

Diversity

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.

Enquiries

Enquiries can be made to dr. Natascha van der Zwan, email n.a.j.van.der.zwan@fgga.leidenuniv.nl

Applications

Please submit online your application no later than June 23, 2020 via this link. Please ensure that you upload the following additional documents in PDF format:

  • Motivation letter;
  • Curriculum vitae including a list of publications;
  • A sample publication;
  • A copy of your completed PhD degree (or a supervisor declaration that the PhD thesis is deemed defendable);
  • The names and contact details of three potential referees (no actual recommendation letters required at this stage).

Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.

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Filed under DEEPEN, Institute of Public Administration, Pension Funds, Welfare State

NORFACE Funding for DEEPEN Project

I am thrilled to announce that the NORFACE network is funding our project “Democratic Governance of Funded Pension Schemes” (DEEPEN).

DEEPEN explores the democratic governance of capital-funded occupational pension schemes. We adopt Scharpf’s distinction between input legitimacy (are collectively binding decisions in line with citizens’ democratically expressed preferences?) and output legitimacy (do collectively binding decisions serve the common interests of the citizens?) to investigate how governments, regulators and labour market actors govern funded pensions (input legitimacy) and whether participants are satisfied with pension fund performance (output legitimacy). The project focuses on Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Spain because the structure of funded pension provision varies along key dimensions relevant to input and output legitimacy.

The project combines quantitative analysis of survey data with comparative case studies based on elite and expert interviews and analysis of primary and secondary documents. Four work packages investigate the following research questions: How does national policy define participant influence on funded pension provision? How do stakeholders use pension fund governance to influence investment policy? How have capital-funded pension schemes performed in terms of pension outcomes across European welfare states? To what extent are individual attitudes on pension investment aligned with these inputs and outputs?

The project team includes Karen Anderson (PI) from University College Dublin, Juan Fernandez from University Carlos III in Madrid and Tobias Wiss from the Johannes Keppler University Linz. We’ll be hiring post-doctoral researchers (Dublin, Leiden) and PhD students (Linz, Madrid) to join our project team.

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Filed under Financialization, Institute of Public Administration, Nederland Pensioenland, Pension Funds, Welfare State

Out Soon: Business Interests and the Modern Welfare State

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I’m very happy to see the new edited volume by Dennie Oude Nijhuis, Business Interests and the Development of the Modern Welfare State, is coming out in July 2019. The volume offers “a synthesis on the question of business attitudes towards and its influence over the development of the modern welfare state.” Chapters consist of both historical country case studies and comparative chapters with country focus on Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Policy aras covered include active labor market policies, educational policies, employment protection legislation, healthcare, private pension programs, and work‐family policies.

My own chapter in this volume explores how the financialization of the political economy during the last quarter of the 20th century has influenced business preferences for occupational pensions. I argue that capital funding has important ramifications for business preferences towards occupational pensions. With capital funding, the extent to which these plans can protect against the social risks associated with old age has become partially dependent on the financial risks stemming from capital funding. Financialization thus turns an influential argument in the business interests scholarship on its head, namely that, depending on size and industry, employers might be willing to incur higher risks to gain more control over social welfare provisions: as financialization reduces the possibilities for control over occupational pension provisions, employers will be more likely to adopt political preferences aimed at risk reduction. My argument builds on a comparative case study of business groups in the United States and the Netherlands.

 

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Filed under Financialization, Pension Funds, Publications, United States, Welfare State

Upcoming Talk: KU Leuven

Friction spaces poster

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April 1, 2019 · 9:06 am

Upcoming Talk: Netspar International Pension Workshop

6003007-8-9-2Photo credit: Chiel Koolhaas on Skitterphoto.com

 

On January 25, Tobias Wiß (Johannes Kepler University Linz) and I will be presenting our paper “Pension Funds and Sustainable Investment: Comparing Regulation in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands” (with Karen Anderson, University College Dublin) during the Netspar International Pension Workshop in Leiden.

Our paper reports the first findings of a Netspar-funded research project on the regulation of sustainable investment by funded pension schemes. In this study, we use insights from comparative political economy and financialization studies to direct attention to the institutional underpinnings of pension schemes’ investment behaviour. The starting point of the paper is the assumption that regulation either incentivizes or discourages sustainable by pension funds. We furthermore assume that the type of regulation present in a pension system is influenced by institutional characteristics, such as the history of the pension system, the capitalization of the second pillar, the vehicles for pension provision, and the mode of governance. The paper employs a broad conceptualization of regulation, incorporating 1) national legislation, 2) regulatory activities by supervisory agencies and 3) self-regulation by the pension sector itself.

In all three countries, there is a growing sense that sustainability is related to (positive) return and that pension schemes, as other groups of politics, the society and the economy, need to take on responsibility for future sustainability, especially in times of climate change. Nonetheless, we do find substantial differences with regard to the regulation of sustainable investment by pension funds: highly developed in the Netherlands, moderately developed in Denmark and underdeveloped in Germany. In none of the cases, legal requirements for sustainable investment exist. Pension investments in all three cases are guided by the prudent person rule, although other rules may exist (e.g. ban on cluster munition in the Netherlands, quantitative restrictions in Germany). The Netherlands stands out as the only case, where 1) the industry has initiated self-regulation on sustainable investment and 2) where the regulator is developing a more all-encompassing attitude towards financial risk, that for instance also includes climate risk. Finally, we find that fund-level activities toward ESG investments are considerable in the Netherlands and Denmark and rather moderate in Germany.

In the coming months, we’ll be revising our paper before it will be published as a Netspar working paper. Keep on an eye on this website or our project page on ResearchGate for any updates.

 

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Filed under Denmark, Events, Germany, Netherlands, Netspar, Pension Funds, Publications

Upcoming Talk: NIAS Seminar

This Thursday, I will be presenting new research in the seminar series of the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies.

My paper presents a historical case study of the investment politics of Dutch pension fund for public employees, ABP (Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds). Combining both quantitative and qualitative analysis, the research maps the financial flows between ABP and the broader political economy before and after WW2, while at the same time shedding light on the political considerations that informed the fund’s investment policies. I show how over time ABP’s investment politics became increasingly caught between the political interests of the state on the one hand and the dictates of dominant financial theories on the other hand.

The history of the ABP is indicative of the centrality of pension funds to the Dutch political economy. Contrary to traditional bank-based or stock-market based systems, the presence of these large funds have allowed the Netherlands to combine a generous welfare state with high financial development. Still, as the case study shows, the ongoing financialization of the welfare state has coincided with a depoliticization of pension investment. The result is a loss of public control over the flows of capital that emanate from the Dutch pension funds on the one hand and growing instability within the private pension system on the other hand.

This is unpublished work. Please e-mail, if interested in the paper.

FotoRouge

Source: H.W. Groeneveld, “De kosten onzer sociale verzekering,” De Werkgever, February 1925, p.37.

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Filed under Events, Financialization, Instituut GAK, Nederland Pensioenland, NIAS, Pension Funds

FGGA Research Publication

FGGA5I am very honored to be one of twelve academics from the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs to have been featured in this new publication. Fast forward to page 58 to find out why pensions aren´t boring and why do-it-yourself-pensions are a bad idea. Or scroll down to read the full interview below. 

Pension schemes? Bóóóring! At least, that’s what lots of  people think, but not Natascha van der Zwan. On the contrary, the assistant professor and political scientist is fascinated by the subject. She compares pension systems in various countries (in historical perspective) and reflects on the way they work out for citizens. ‘Saving for later on an individual basis? That will widen the gap between rich and poor.’

Pensions are as old as time, says Natascha van der Zwan. ‘In Roman days, for instance, it was already common that the state (if one can use that term) rewarded veterans for their services with a “pension provision”, a piece of land. In The Netherlands, the first pension schemes came into being in the early 19th century. Strikingly enough, they were also, at first, meant for veterans, and for civil servants. The government provided a favor, a token of appreciation from the king to people who had distinguished themselves in government service. Soon, however, those provisions were expanded to another category of pensioners:  widows and orphans. Based on the idea that one should protect families without a breadwinner from further misery.

Over the course of the 19th century pension rights were extended to other groups, and the execution of those rights sided more and more with employers. Around the turn of the century , a number of big firms already provided their workers with a pension. Still as a favor, not as a right. And actually this is still the case today. In The Netherlands we have two kinds of “pension”: a state allowance at a fixed level, to which every citizen is entitled (the “AOW”). And a supplementary pension, as a rule managed by pension funds or insurance companies and paid for by employers and employees during the course of their working life. Agreements on contributions are part of the terms of employment.  Logical, as pension is in fact deferred wage: a form of salary that’s only paid after some time. ‘It’s typical for The Netherlands that management and labour organisations decide together on pension rights, often through collective labour agreements.’

Public Pensions

Van der Zwan is working on a historical study comparing pensions schemes in Germany, the United States and The Netherlands. ‘In Germany a public pension (provided by the state) was introduced  in the late 19th century. Private companies were not involved in this scheme. Even today, the government plays a leading role in pension provisions and pension funds are therefore less common in Germany than in the Netherlands. The country relies on the state pension, paid for by premiums. Current employees provide for current pensioners. But if more people retire and fewer people have a job, you’re in for a huge problem. Either workers pay more, or the government has to supplement.’

In the United States the ball lies in the employees’ court. Companies are not obliged to offer any form of pension, and usually they don’t – many people  rely on their own savings. Didn’t labour unions try to change this situation? Of course, and in the seventies the American unions were a force to be reckoned with. But their influence dwindled. They simply lost the battle.’

Do-It-Yourself-Pension

In the Netherlands, the question if the pension system should be scrapped is the subject of heated debate. ‘Not for the first time’, says Van der Zwan. ‘In the nineties, politicians were already questioning the current system. Employees, they argued, should be more at liberty to spend or invest their deferred wages as they saw fit. But time was not ripe for this yet. This only changed when the consequences of the financial crisis became noticeable. People were dissatisfied and new ideas gained ground. And what about Germany and the US? Of course, they also feel the pressure of economic circumstances and an aging population. These countries advocate making pension provisions less voluntary, along the lines of the Dutch system.’

Van der Zwan herself is critical  of the new pension ideas. ‘We know from the scientific literature: voluntary systems do not work. People don’t save, they postpone saving, or and only consider the short term. Or they have just managed to fill their pension pot when they are confronted with higher care costs. There goes their pension!’

‘There are people who say that we have become too dependent on government provisions, and that they cost too much. I am not one of those people. We know that the “do-it-yourself-pension” can make citizens very insecure, as well as leading to more inequality between those who have sufficient knowledge, discipline and responsibility to save for later, and those who haven’t. A voluntary system will widen the gap between rich and poor, between people who’ll have all their eggs in their basket, and those who’ll lose out.’

Text by Andrea Hijmans

FGGA2

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Filed under Financialization, Germany, Institute of Public Administration, Nederland Pensioenland, Pension Funds, United States

Fellowship at NIAS

IMG_20180418_102536168

I am very pleased to announce that I have been awarded an Instituut Gak Fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences. I will be joining the NIAS in Amsterdam from early September 2018 until the end of January 2019. While at NIAS, I will be completing my book manuscript on the financialization of the Dutch pension system.

From my proposal: The project is a historical political economy of the Dutch pension system that investigates how the mutually constitutive relationship between the welfare state and the financial system shaped its development. Despite the international prominence of this case in academic scholarship and policy circles, a historical account of the Dutch pension system that integrates the study of social and financial policy has not yet been written. Five case studies of selected historical episodes from the early 20th century to the current period show how state, business and labor actors sometimes opposed, sometimes advanced financial development in order to achieve their social policy goals. This historical account of the Dutch pension system advances theoretical understandings of financialization in relation to the welfare state. The United States and Germany serve as shadow cases. Evidence is collected from national and international historical archives. The fellowship period would be used for the final write-up of the manuscript.

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Filed under Financialization, Germany, Instituut GAK, Nederland Pensioenland, NIAS, Pension Funds, Publications, United States

New Article on Financialization and the Pension System

My article “Financialisation and the Pension System: Lessons from the United States and the Netherlands” was recently published in the Journal of Modern European History (Vol. 15, No. 4). The article explores the financialisation of private pensions in the United States and the Netherlands. It proposes two distinct arguments. First, the article shows that both the American and the Dutch pension systems stand out internationally for their high degrees of capitalisation and the absence of substantive investment restrictions for pension funds. The article posits that both pension systems are highly financialised, yet the process of financialisation has proceeded along different historical paths and within different institutional contexts.

Second, the article maintains that the financialisation of pension systems is accompanied by its own political dynamics. In both political economies, different groups of actors (employers, labour unions, financial professionals) have made claims over the growing concentration of pension assets. Here, particular emphasis is given to the role of the state. It shows how since the mid-1970s, both American and Dutch pension funds have altered their investment strategies, abandoning public debt as the dominant investment category.

The article explains this change in terms of the rising popularity of modern portfolio theory and the immense growth of pension capital in need of new investment options. As austerity politics have made governments more dependent on financial markets, pension funds have become more assertive in leveraging their assets and demanding political reform which are in the interest of the financial industries. Financialisation has thus fundamentally altered the balance of power between the state and financial market actors.

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