Access to Retirement Plans Varies in Private Sector

September 21, 2012 ( Nearly two-thirds of private-industry workers had access to some form of retirement plan, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

Access to retirement plans varied significantly by major occupational group, full- or part-time status, bargaining status and wage category. Management, professional and related occupations had nearly twice the access rate and more than three times the participation rate of service occupations. (Some examples of service occupations are health care support, protective service, food preparation, maintenance and personal care workers.)   

Similarly, full-time workers had nearly twice the access rate and three times the participation rate of part-time workers. Union workers showed very high access (92%) and participation (85%) rates for retirement plans.  

High-wage workers (those in the top 25% of all wage earners, with earnings at or above $24.81 per hour) had significantly higher rates of access and participation in retirement plans than those of low-wage workers (those in the lowest 25% of all wage earners, with earnings at or below $10.69 per hour). High-wage workers had access rates of 85% and participation rates of 75%. In other words, 89% of the high-wage workers who were eligible for retirement benefits participated in the plan (known as the take-up rate), a significantly higher share than the take-up rate of 45% for low-wage workers.   

Workers in large establishments (500 workers or more) had a retirement participation rate that was more than twice that of workers in small establishments (less than 100 workers). In addition, the take-up rate for workers in large establishments was 20 percentage points higher than the rate for workers in small establishments.  

The BLS’ “Beyond the Numbers” report also provides an overview of medical and paid leave benefits for private-industry workers.  

The report is here.