This is the first data it has published since contributions increased in April 2018, where employees saw their contributions rise from 1 per cent to 3 per cent of earnings.
The evaluation report shows opt out rates remain low, with no significant increase. Encouragingly this data shows that opt out rates among younger savers remain particularly low.
The DWP data shows around 10m workers have now been automatically enrolling into a work pension
With employer contributions, this represents a minimum contribution of 5 per cent of earnings. Next year though will see more significant rises, with employee contributions rising to 5 per cent, and employer contributions rising to 3 per cent.
Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith says: “While opt-out rates remain consistent overall, there’s evidence that behavioural economics is working.
“Employees are getting used to the idea that each job comes with a pension, and that normally this means paying pension contributions. This is clearly demonstrated by lower opt-out rates for new recruits compared to when employers ‘staged’.
“Surprisingly, higher earners tend to have a higher opt-out rate than lower earners, this is a worrying trend, unless they have other assets and savings, as they are the ones who won’t be able to fall back on the State.”
She does point out that this analysis is not all good news though. It shows participation rates are down from a peak at 79 per cent in 2015 to 73 per cent in 2017 – although Smith adds this this may be due to the way the data has been collected.
She says: “We’re beginning to see trends emerging, including across gender and age brackets with women overall having higher participation rates than men.
“While pension participation remains highest for older employees, it’s good to see that the largest increase has been amongst the youngest in the workforce, those aged 22 to 29.”
AJ Bell senior analyst Tom Selby says: “Early indications suggest the increase in minimum total contributions introduced in April this year has not caused savers to flee for the exit door. Rising average wages will have helped here, dampening the effect saving in a pension has on people’s take-home pay.
“The next big test of the reform programme comes in April next year when contributions will be hiked once again, from 5 per cent of relevant earnings to 8 per cent.
“The omens for the impact this will have on people’s saving behaviour look positive, although clearly any negative shocks to the economy could yet derail the progress made so far.”
Now Pensions director of policy Adrian Boulding says: “It’s important to remember that in 2012 just 55 per cent of eligible employees were saving into a workplace pension, in 2017 this number had risen to 84 per cent – a staggering turnaround.
“The report offers reassuring news that the increase in auto enrolment minimum contributions in April went off without a hitch with no uptick in people choosing to stop saving which is very encouraging.”
Hymans Robertson partner Paul Waters adds: “It is great to see auto enrolment continuing to ensure employers help more people save for their retirement.”
But he warns this positive data shouldn’t encourage people to think the pensions problem is solved. “Many employees will think that their pension contributions will provide them with a comfortable income in retirement, since the AE pension rate is being set automatically by a combination of the government and their employer.
“In reality, they will be dismayed to find that they simply haven’t saved enough when they come to retirement.”