In Finland, earnings-related pensions are financed according to the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) principle and the partial funding principle. The pensions paid out in a given year are financed, for the main part, with the pension contributions paid that year. The remaining part is financed with assets from the pension funds and the investment return of the funded pension components.

Employers, workers and the self-employed pay insurance contributions which are used to fund pensions. In addition to pension assets and their investment returns, the Employment Fund and the State contribute to the financing of pensions.

The earnings-related pension provider that insured the worker before their retirement grants and pays out the earnings-related pension when the worker retires. If the worker has worked for several employers during their working life, the pension may have been funded in different pension providers.

The pension provider that pays out the pension will collect the pooled components that the pension providers are jointly responsible for according to the PAYG principle calculated by the Finnish Centre for Pensions.

The national pension expenditure is financed in full by the State via tax revenues according to the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) scheme.

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PAYG and partial funding

Public sector earnings-related pensions are financed under the PAYG principles, backed up by act-specific buffer funds. The pensions of the self-employed and farmers are financed with the insurance contributions paid in the year in question. The State pays the part of the annual pension expenditure for pensions paid to the self-employed and farmers that the insurance contributions do not cover. The State also contributes to the financing of sailors’ earnings-related pensions under the Seafarer’s Pensions Act.

The earnings-related and disability pensions of private sector wage earners are financed according to the partial funding principle. The earnings-related pension providers fund a certain share (per pension benefit) of each worker’s pension contribution to finance these pensions. The actuarial principles confirmed by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health define the financing principles in more detail.

The pensions of state employees are paid by funds set aside for the purpose in the state budget. Assets collected in the form of pension contributions are transferred each year from the State Pension Fund to the state budget (40% of the pension expenditure). The remaining 60 per cent of the paid pensions are financed directly from the state budget for each year. Currently, more assets are transferred each year from the state budget to pension payments than collected in pension contributions.

The municipal sector pensions are financed mainly through pension contributions collected each year from employers and workers. Currently, since the collected pension contributions are no longer enough to cover the annual pension expenditure, part of the investment return of pension funds that has accumulated over the past decades has also been used for pension payments.

A small buffer fund, the National Pension Insurance Fund, has been legislated for the national pension in the National Pensions Act. The fund has to contain assets worth at least 3.5 per cent of the total annual expenditure for national pensions. 

Financing methods from an intergenerational standpoint

As a rule, under the PAYG principle, the working population finances the benefits of the retirees. That means that the pensions of each generation are financed by later generations. A sufficient number of working people is needed to pay the pensions of earlier generations. For this system to work, employment rates and the age structure of the population play a crucial role.

The number of retirees is continuously growing in Finland, and people spend more time in retirement than before.  The number of working-age people is shrinking and, as a result, the number of persons financing pensions is also decreasing. The life expectancy coefficient that is linked to life expectancy will also affect the pension amounts of the younger generations. The life expectancy coefficient will reduce an individual’s pension amount if they don’t work longer than before.

Partial funding eases the contribution burden of future generations since the funded assets and their long-term investment returns can be used to pay for future pensions and to uphold the system. For its part, partial funding protects the pension promises made. If our earnings-related pensions system was fully funded, each generation would finance its pensions on its own.

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Finnish Centre for Pensions – Central body of and expert on statutory earnings-related pensions