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Risk shifting and the decline of defined benefit pension schemes in Australia

Mees, B ORCID: 0000-0001-5710-2540 2020 , 'Risk shifting and the decline of defined benefit pension schemes in Australia' , Accounting History Review, vol. 30, no. 1 , pp. 69-87 , doi: 10.1080/21552851.2020.1711527.

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Abstract

Recent studies of private pension provision have stressed theshedding of risk by employers entailed in the international trendaway from defined benefit to defined contribution arrangements.In this critical literature, the widespread development towardsdefined contribution schemes is seen as an exclusively pooroutcome for employees as financial risk is pushed onto themembers of pension plans. These criticisms have essentially beenahistorical – they are not founded in close analyses of the reformsof the relevant pension arrangements. The first country toundertake a major change from defined benefit (or benefitpromise) to defined contribution (or accumulation) plans wasAustralia. A closer historical examination of the shift suggests thatthe considerable reforms in occupational pension schemes of the1980s and 1990s cannot validly be seen, overall, as a regressiveoutcome for Australian workers. Three fundamental features ofthe reform of white-collar superannuation emerge from a closehistorical analysis. First, considerable simplification transpired inwhat previously had been a largely opaque system of retirementbenefits provision. Second, there was a fixing of employer costs inlight of the adoption of accrual accounting and an increasingdrain on taxpayer funds in public sector schemes. Third, clearevidence of improved financial performance occurred during thereforms.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Mees, B
Keywords: pensions, public sector, accounting standards, Australia, industrial relations, defined benefits
Journal or Publication Title: Accounting History Review
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 2155-2851
DOI / ID Number: 10.1080/21552851.2020.1711527
Copyright Information:

© 2020 Informa UK Limited

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