Connecting policy with personal: UK pension reforms and individual financial decision making

This research investigates the response of individuals to the introduction of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions in 2012.

By 31 July 2016, around 6.5m eligible workers were newly enrolled into a workplace pension, taking the percentage of eligible workers participating in a workplace pension to over 75%. However, there remain concerns about the number of contributions being made by enrolled employees, since minimum contribution levels are unlikely to guarantee an adequate income in retirement. This means that individuals are expected to engage actively with private pension saving once they have been automatically enrolled, particularly by increasing their contributions over time.

There is an urgent need to deepen our understanding of how and why individuals make decisions about their pension. This project will address this question through research into individual pension decision-making following auto-enrolment.  It will use semi-structured qualitative research interviews with workers who have opted-out of the pension scheme, increased their contributions, or taken no action following auto-enrolment.

Project objectives

  • What are the forms of rationality that individuals apply when making a decision about their pension following auto-enrolment?
  • What social and cultural factors are relevant to understanding individual pension decision making?
  • How do perceptions of pension risk influence decision making?
  • How do the perspectives of ageing influence pension decision making?

PhD student

Hayley James - MICRA, The University of Manchester.


  • Professor Debora Price; MICRA, The University of Manchester.
  • Dr Tine Buffel; MICRA, The University of Manchester.
  • Professor Karen Glaser; Institute of Gerontology, Kings College London.

Partner organisation

Pensions Policy Institute.


  • Economic and Social Research Council.
  • Pensions Policy Institute.

Subject involved