Pension Reforms in India: Ensuring Pension Security

The problem of government employees’ pensions has arisen as a key political concern, prompting several states to explore returning to the defined-benefit (DB) Old Pension Scheme (OPS) from the New Pension Scheme (NPS). Recognising the importance of this issue, the Government of India has formed a committee to improve the NPS.

What exactly is a pension?

  • A pension is a retirement plan that provides individuals with a stream of income after they retire from their job or profession. It is designed to provide a steady income throughout retirement and can be supported by companies, government organisations, or unions.

What is Old Pension Scheme (OPS)?

  • The OPS, also known as the Defined Benefit Pension System, is an Indian government pension scheme for its employees.
  • Retired government employees receive a fixed monthly pension under the OPS depending on their last received salary and years of service.
  • The government pays for this pension with current resources, resulting in higher pension liabilities.

What is NPS?

  • The New Pension Scheme (NPS) is a market-linked, defined contribution pension system that was launched in India in 2004 to replace the Old Pension Scheme (OPS).
  • The National Pension System (NPS) is intended to provide retirement income to all Indian citizens, including government employees, private sector workers, and self-employed persons.

Reasons for the increased interest in reverting to OPS

  • Predictability and stability: The desire for consistency and predictability in pension benefits is one of the key drivers of the want to return to OPS. Employees in the OPS receive a set pension based on their last drew salary, which is raised on a regular basis to account for inflation. This provides reassurance and clarity concerning post-retirement income, assuring a secure financial future.
  • Market Risk and Annuity Payouts: Because the NPS is a market-linked pension scheme, pensioners are exposed to market risks. The pension fund’s returns are sensitive to market volatility, which can affect the overall corpus and, as a result, annuity distributions. Employees seeking a more safe and trustworthy pension system are concerned about the volatility.
  • Lower Annuity Prospects: With the NPS, pensioners suffer market risk and may get less than planned annuity payments. Because of the uncertainties surrounding future pension prospects, many employees argue for a return to OPS, which provides a predetermined pension sum.
  • Employees frequently compare the OPS to pension systems in other countries, particularly those in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) economies. According to these comparisons, OPS offers greater pension replacement rates, lower retirement ages, and coverage for the entire family. Such positive characteristics of OPS create an impression of improved benefits and encourage employees to urge its reintroduction.
  • Unsustainability Perception: While the NPS was created to alleviate fiscal difficulties caused by the unfunded OPS, there are worries about its long-term viability. Some think that, rather than fully abandoning OPS, it can be sustained through smart fiscal management and reform. The notion of unsustainable practises fuels the demand for OPS as a viable option.

The difficulties associated with returning to OPS

  • Financial Stability: The OPS is a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) scheme in which current employees support the retired. The pressure on the future workforce to support pensions will grow as birth rates decline and life expectancy rises. As an underfunded system, the OPS presents issues in terms of long-term fiscal viability.
  • Demographic Changes: The dependency ratio is likely to rise significantly, with fewer employees supporting an increasing number of retirees. This demographic transition complicates the task of preserving the OPS by putting more weight on the funding mechanism and the ability to satisfy pension obligations.
  • Inflationary Pressures: To account for inflation, the OPS ensures periodic increases in pension disbursements through dearness allowance (DA) adjustments. Using fixed increments related to DA, on the other hand, can be difficult during years of significant inflation. Keeping pension payouts in line with inflation while maintaining budgetary stability can be a difficult task for policymakers.
  • Budgetary Constraints: Reverting to OPS may place a major strain on the government’s budget. Pension liabilities already account for a sizable share of governmental revenue inflows and revenues generated. Increasing pension liabilities may entail a reduction in development spending or extra borrowing, thereby aggravating the public debt problem.
  • Intergenerational Equity: Maintaining intergenerational equity is critical in pension reforms. Returning to OPS may meet the ambitions of current employees, but it may place a significant burden on future generations. Striking a balance between providing appropriate pension security for current employees and guaranteeing the pension system’s sustainability for future generations is a critical challenge that must be addressed.
  • Economic Considerations: The economic environment, such as interest rates and investment returns, can have an impact on OPS’s financial viability. Economic changes, such as low interest rates or poor returns on pension fund investments, can put a burden on the financial resources required to continue OPS and satisfy pension commitments.

Building sustainable and inclusive pension systems in the future

  • Comprehensive Reform: Governments should implement comprehensive changes, which may include rethinking the pension architecture, implementing alternative pension models, and investigating hybrid schemes that incorporate aspects of defined-benefit and defined-contribution systems. A detailed review of demographic trends, fiscal limits, and economic conditions should influence reforms.
  • Mechanisms for Adequate Funding: To ensure that pension commitments are honoured, pension systems must build strong funding methods. This may involve setting up dedicated pension funds, implementing sound investment strategies, and establishing appropriate contribution rates for both employees and employers.
  • Pension Governance Strengthening: Effective governance is critical for the success of pension systems. Governments should tighten the regulatory framework, improve transparency, and increase accountability in pension fund management. The establishment of independent monitoring committees and the adoption of international best practises can aid in ensuring the integrity and effectiveness of pension governance.
  • Financial literacy programmes should be created to educate individuals about the necessity of retirement planning, investing methods, and the risks and benefits of various pension plans. Individuals who are empowered with financial information will be able to make informed decisions and play an active role in safeguarding their retirement income.
  • Encourage Voluntary Savings: To supplement statutory pension schemes, governments should encourage voluntary retirement savings programmes. Incentives, such as tax breaks or matching contributions, might encourage people to save for retirement in addition to the necessary contributions. Individual retirement accounts or employer-sponsored plans, for example, can provide individuals with greater flexibility and control over their retirement investments.
  • Flexibility and portability: Pension systems should adapt to changing work environments and enable individuals with different job patterns. Portable pension accounts, which allow individuals to carry their earned benefits across jobs, can assure retirement savings continuity. Pension payment alternatives that are flexible, such as lump sum or phased withdrawals, can suit diverse financial demands and preferences of retirees.
  • Social safety nets should be implemented into pension systems to meet the requirements of vulnerable people. These safety nets can provide guaranteed minimum incomes or targeted help to people with limited or interrupted work history, low-income workers, and those facing financial difficulties in retirement.


In the middle of the discussion over NPS vs. OPS, it is critical to design a pension system that provides security without jeopardising fiscal sustainability or intergenerational equality.

And get notified everytime we publish a new blog post.