What is it about?

In this article, I compare the political preferences of business groups in the United States and the Netherlands vis-a-vis three issues surrounding capital-funded pensions: solvency rules, financial disclosure rules, and corporate governance regulation. In both countries, business groups have sought financial rules that reduce requirements for employers to raise contributions or make repair payments in situations of underfunding, disclosure rules that downplay the role of pension liabilities on the corporate account, and corporate governance rules that limit shareholder activism. My research supports the argument that business preferences are not just driven by the overall costs of an occupational pension plan, but also by the financial risks such plans expose corporations to.

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Why is it important?

An important argument in scholarship on occupational welfare is that, depending on size and industry, employers might be employers might be willing to incur higher risks to gain more control over social welfare provisions. My study turns this argument on its head: as investment of pension assets in global financial markets reduces possibilities for control over occupational pension provisions, employers will be more likely to adopt political preferences aimed at risk reduction. This is manifested, for instance, in both countries by employer withdrawal from pension promises.


Even though the United States and the Netherlands have vastly different occupational pension systems - voluntary versus mandatory participation, low versus high participation rates, to name two major differences - I decided to focus on these two cases to show that nonetheless the pressures stemming from global financial markets are quite similar in both countries.

Natascha van der Zwan
Universiteit Leiden

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This page is a summary of: The financial politics of occupational pensions, July 2019, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.4324/9781351002394-11.
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