European Companies Turn to DC Alternative

March 4, 2002 ( - Over the last 10 years, the number of expatriate workers covered by traditional pension plans has fallen by half, a new survey by William M. Mercer finds.

The study revealed that 79% of participant companies offered overseas employees a defined benefit plan in 1991, but that figure had fallen to 42% a decade later.

According to the Mercer survey, European companies are more likely to have a defined contribution plan for expatriates – 73% of European firms versus 41% of North American companies.

Mercer researchers said retirement plan costs were higher in Europe where the median fixed employer contribution was 12% versus North America’s 5%.

The study also found that companies offer special expatriate plans for longer term overseas placements, mainly because of the tax and legal problems associated with keeping these workers in other company plans.

The annual Mercer Retirement and Benefits Survey for Third-Country Nationals covered 133 European and North American companies with a total of over 27,500 expatriate workers between them.