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Pension firms take on average 11 years to pay back deficit

Pension firms are now taking an average of 11 years to repay deficits, an increase of 3 years compared to the average repayment period recorded in 2011.

The findings from a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report revealed that factors including depressed gilt yields and the faltering state of the economy, had led to a staggering 91% of the 98 defined pensions schemes surveyed to slide into deficit.

More than half (57%) of the firms included in the research also admitted that their size of their deficit had swelled since last year. While 79% had increased repayment contributions to meet this debt, 43% opted to hold on to their debt for longer with an increased recovery plan.

The news follows recently released data from the Office for National Statistics which showed that the number of active members of pension schemes at work fell from 8.3 million in 2010 to reach a figure of 8.2 million in 2011. This represents the third consecutive year that active membership of workplace pensions has taken a dip.

The current average deficit repayment period has returned to the 2009 levels, a year after the economic downturn started in earnest, after falling to 9.5 years in 2010 and further to 8 years in 2011.

Jeremy May, pensions partner at PwC, argued that uncertain economic climate had hit pensions schemes hard.

“Many companies now face the stark choice of ploughing considerably more cash into their pension scheme, or being saddled with the debt for longer,” he said. “In many cases, lack of cash availability means the decision is simple.”

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