University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

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

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 11:12 authored by Mees, B
Recent studies of private pension provision have stressed the shedding of risk by employers entailed in the international trend away from defined benefit to defined contribution arrangements. In this critical literature, the widespread development towards defined contribution schemes is seen as an exclusively poor outcome for employees as financial risk is pushed onto the members of pension plans. These criticisms have essentially been ahistorical – they are not founded in close analyses of the reforms of the relevant pension arrangements. The first country to undertake a major change from defined benefit (or benefit promise) to defined contribution (or accumulation) plans was Australia. A closer historical examination of the shift suggests that the considerable reforms in occupational pension schemes of the 1980s and 1990s cannot validly be seen, overall, as a regressive outcome for Australian workers. Three fundamental features of the reform of white-collar superannuation emerge from a close historical analysis. First, considerable simplification transpired in what previously had been a largely opaque system of retirement benefits provision. Second, there was a fixing of employer costs in light of the adoption of accrual accounting and an increasing drain on taxpayer funds in public sector schemes. Third, clear evidence of improved financial performance occurred during the reforms.


Publication title

Accounting History Review











Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

© 2020 Informa UK Limited

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Superannuation and insurance services