There are two parts to the survivors’ pension paid from the earnings-related pension scheme: the surviving spouse’s pension and the orphan’s pension. The reform of the surviving spouse’s pension scheme took effect on 1 January 2022.

Under certain conditions, the survivors’ pension is paid to the deceased person’s married or common-law spouse. Same-sex parties to a registered relationship are comparable to married spouses.

Survivors’ pensions reformed as of 1 January 2022

  • The surviving spouse’s pension becomes payable for a fixed term for recipients born in 1975 and later. The surviving spouse’s pension is paid for 10 years at the most but at least until the youngest child turns 18.
  • Surviving spouse’s pension can also be paid to a common-law spouse if they are the provider of an underage child and the common-law status has continued for at least 5 years.
  • The orphan’s pension is paid until the child turns 20 (previous age limit was 18 years).
  • The computational component of the surviving spouse’s pension is paid to the children if there is no surviving spouse.

 

The deceased person’s children under the age of 20 are entitled to an orphan’s pension. The child of a surviving spouse who was married to the deceased may be entitled to the orphan’s pension if the child lived in the same household with the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse.

A married surviving spouse is entitled to the surviving spouse’s pension if:

  • the surviving spouse has, or has had, a child (biological or adopted) together with the deceased and the spouses married before the deceased reached the age of 65; or
  • the spouses married before the deceased reached the age of 65 and the surviving spouse reached the age of 50, the marriage had continued for at least five years, the surviving spouse has reached the age of 50 at the time of the spouse’s death, or the surviving spouse has been incapacitated for work for a long time.

A common-law spouse is entitled to the surviving spouse’s pension if:

  • the deceased spouse died in 2022 or later;
  • the surviving common-law spouse has a dependent child under the age of 18 together with the deceased;
  • the surviving common-law spouse and the deceased shared a household for at least five years before the deceased passed away;
  • the surviving common-law spouse and the deceased moved together into a shared household before the deceased spouse turned 65; and
  • Neither common-law spouse was married to another person.

A former spouse of the deceased may be entitled to a surviving spouse’s pension if the deceased was ordered to pay alimony to the former spouse on the basis of a legally valid decision or an agreement confirmed by the social services board.

A surviving spouse who was married to the deceased person receives the surviving spouse’s pension for the rest of their life if the surviving spouse was born before 1975 or if the spouse passed away before 1 January 2022. A surviving spouse born in 1975 or later will be paid the surviving spouse’s pension for 10 years or until the youngest of the children receiving an orphan’s pension turns 18. A common-law surviving spouse will be paid the survivor’s pension until the youngest of the shared children turns 18. If the surviving spouse remarries before reaching the age of 50, the surviving spouse’s pension ends.

Number of beneficiaries affects pension amount

The basis of the survivors’ pension is the deceased person’s earnings-related pension. If the deceased did not get a pension or drew a partial disability pension or a part-time pension at the time of death, the survivor’s pension is calculated on the basis of a computational disability pension.

The life expectancy coefficient affects the old-age or disability pension that the survivors’ pension is based on.

If the survivors’ pension is based on the deceased person’s disability pension or computational disability pension, a lump-sum increase is made to the survivors’ pension five years after the onset of the survivors’ pension or the disability pension.

The survivors’ pension is calculated based on the deceased person’s pension right and is affected by the number of beneficiaries. At most, the amount of the survivors’ pension and the orphan’s pensions is the size of the pension of the deceased. As of the beginning of 2022, the computational share of the surviving spouse’s pension may be paid as an orphan’s pension to the children if there is no surviving spouse who is entitled to the surviving spouse’s pension. In that case, the total amount of the survivors’ pension is divided between the children.

The surviving spouse’s and the children’s share of the pension

No of children01234-
 Surviving spouse’s pension 6/12 6/12 5/12 3/12 2/12
 Orphan’s pension – 4/12 7/12 9/12 10/12
 Total 6/12  10/12 12/12 12/12 12/12

Reduction of surviving spouse’s pension

The survivors’ pension compensates for the financial loss caused by the death of the family wage earner. In order for the surviving spouse’s income to correspond to the level before the death of the other spouse, a deduction is made to the surviving spouse’s pension based on their own pension or the computational disability pension.

The surviving spouse’s pension is reduced when one of the following is realised:

  • the youngest child turns 18,
  • a childless surviving spouse under the age of 65 has received an initial pension for six months, or
  • the surviving spouse is over 65 years or a pensioner.

The surviving spouse’s pension is reduced if their own pension amounts to more than 750.50 euros (in 2022). The amount of the deduction made to the full surviving spouse’s pension is half of the difference between the surviving spouse’s own pension and the above-mentioned limit.

Reduced surviving spouse’s pension =
full surviving spouse’s pension – 0.5 x (surviving spouse’s own pension – €750.50)

 

In some cases, no survivor’s pension is paid because of the surviving spouse’s own income. The deduction usually affects the amount of the surviving spouse’s pension paid to the widower since, on average, men’s income is higher than women’s. Roughly 25 per cent of the male surviving spouses get no surviving spouse’s pension at all due to the deduction of the survivors’ pension. For female surviving spouses, the equivalent share is about 3 per cent.

In 2020, the average earnings-related surviving spouse’s pension (excluding pensions of zero euros) was 647 euros/month. On average, the monthly surviving spouse’s pension for women was 686 euros and for men 360 euros.

Other benefits after the death of a family wage earner

In addition to the survivors’ pension benefits paid from the earnings-related pension scheme, the family members may be entitled to

  • the survivors’ pension from the national pension scheme,
  • a survivors’ pension paid on the basis of the employment of the deceased in EU/EEA countries or other social security agreement countries,
  • a survivors’ pension paid from the workers’ compensation insurance or the motor liability insurance, or
  • compensation from the Employees’ Group Life Insurance Pool.

The initial pension and the basic amount of the orphan’s pension paid from the national pension scheme are paid regardless of income. The continuing pension of a surviving spouse and the supplement to the orphan’s pension are income-tested.

The workers’ compensation insurance and the motor liability insurance are mandatory. Their benefits are primary in relation to earnings-related pensions. The Employees’ Group Life Insurance covers nearly all wage-earners and entitles to a flat-rate lump-sum compensation.

In addition to statutory and occupational insurance, the insurance cover may be topped up with a supplementary pension taken out by the employer, private pension insurance or life insurance.

More information on the survivors’ pension

The reform of the survivors’ pension scheme is based on a report on the development of the survivors’ pension system written by a working group of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in 2017. The Finnish Centre for Pensions reviewed the status of the survivors’ pension system and how it could be developed in 2014.

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