AIAS Lunch Seminar May 16th: Natascha van der Zwan (AIAS)

Freedom of Choice and Pensions: The Political Construction of a New Policy Paradigm.

Natascha van der Zwan (AIAS)

Day: Thursday May 16th 2013
Time: 12.15 – 13.15 hrs.
Location: AIAS, 3rd floor, M building, Plantage Muidergracht 12, Amsterdam
Registration: Please send an email, preferably before Tuesday May 14th 12.00 hrs, to register.
A sandwich will then be provided.


The paper traces the political construction of a new public policy goal in the Dutch pension system, namely freedom of choice. Freedom of choice is a radical departure from the existing occupational pension system, in which Dutch workers are automatically enrolled in industry-wide pension funds, while the details of the pension plan are defined by the social partners through the collective bargaining process. Based on a content analysis of media sources, political party programs and public policy documents, the paper shows how the new “freedom of choice” policy paradigm has been constructed through the careful mobilization of public opinion in the mass media since the mid-1990s. The research shows how demands for more freedom of choice with regards to pensions have been predominantly advanced by a small group of academic experts, industry officials and political representatives. Largely absent are the voices of Dutch citizens and representatives from the social partners. Where these groups do speak out on pension reform, they do so predominantly in defense of the status quo, emphasizing the importance of social solidarity and risk-sharing between the generations. The public policy paradigm of freedom of choice is therefore constructed largely outside traditional class coalitions in Dutch politics and seems disconnected from broad-based popular support.

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