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Pension Satellite Account, 2013

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Released: 2014-12-16

Pension wealth advanced to $2.85 trillion at the end of 2013, up 11.4% (+$291 billion) from 2012. This followed an equally robust increase of 9.3% (+$218 billion) in pension wealth in 2012. The strength was broad based, with all components (social security, employer-based pension plans and individual registered savings plans) posting gains from 2012 to 2013.

The proportion of pension assets to household credit market debt has been on the rise since 2011. Pension assets were 1.63 times credit market debt held by households in 2013, up from 1.53 in 2012 and 1.47 in 2011. Despite the recent growth, the proportion was still below the level of 1.79 reached in 2006 before the financial crisis and below the all-time high of 2.0 recorded in 1999.

Pension assets by type of plan (1990 to 2013)

Wealth in employer-based pension plans rose 11.0% (+$156 billion) from 2012 to $1.57 trillion at the close of 2013. This followed a 9.2% increase (+$120 billion) in 2012. At the end of 2013, wealth in trusteed pension plans increased by 12.7% (+$141 billion), making these plans the main contributor to the growth in the wealth of employer-based pension plans.

Assets in individual registered savings plans grew to $1.03 trillion at the end of 2013, an increase of 10.7% (+$100 billion) over 2012. This growth was slightly stronger than the 8.4% (+$72 billion) recorded at the end of 2012.

Assets held in employer-based pension plans and individual registered savings plans combined accounted for 91.3% of total pension wealth at the end of 2013, almost unchanged from 91.7% in 2012.

Wealth in social security plans stood at $249 billion at the close of 2013, up 16.6% (+$35 billion) over the preceding year, following an increase of 14.0% (+$26 billion) in 2012.

Overall, the robust growth in pension wealth in 2013 was mainly driven by the strong performance in equity markets, particularly on the international front. Pension wealth accounted for 55.2% of total financial assets held by Canadian households at the end of 2013, up slightly from 54.6% in 2012.

Pension contributions, investment income, withdrawals and revaluations (1990 to 2012)

Pension plan contributions rose 5.4% in 2012, following an increase of 4.9% in 2011. Contributions to employer-based plans grew 5.1% in 2012, while those to individual registered savings plans rose 3.9% and those to social security plans were up 6.8%.

In 2012, growth in the total investment income of pension plans slowed to 4.7%, following a 10.1% increase in 2011. Investment income rose in two of the three pension tiers in 2012: social security plans (+24.2%) and employer-based pension plans (+4.6%), while it was relatively unchanged for individual registered savings plans (-0.8%).

With the exception of individual registered savings plans, withdrawals were higher in 2012 compared with 2011. Withdrawals from pension plans increased 6.9% in 2012, after rising 4.3% in 2011. For employer-based pension plans, withdrawals were up 8.5% in 2012, following a 2.8% gain in the previous year. Withdrawals increased 6.7% for social security plans and 4.5% for individual registered plans in 2012.

Pension plan contributions and investment income combined grew at a slower rate in 2012 (+5.2%) compared with 2011 (+6.6%), while withdrawals were higher in 2012. At the same time, revaluations added $120 billion to pension wealth in 2012, after reducing its value by $14 billion in 2011.

  Note to readers

The Pension Satellite Account (PSA) provides an integrated stock-flow representation of the Canadian pension system. The PSA fully articulates the wealth positions (level of assets) as well as the pension inflows (contributions, investment income), outflows (withdrawals), and realized and unrealized gains and losses that contribute to change in wealth (revaluations and other changes in assets).

The PSA presents annual estimates for each of the three tiers of the Canadian pension system: social security, employer-based pension plans, and voluntary individual registered savings plans. The institutional dimension of the PSA presentation has been mainly defined by data availability. The breakdown of the three tiers into further detail is provided where data supported it and reflects a mixture of detail by program and by institutional dimension.

This release covers the level of pension assets at market value for the period from 2011 to 2013 and the pension flows for the period from 2011 to 2012. Flows for 2013 will be available with the next PSA release in the fall of 2015 when final administrative data files for 2013 become available.

With this release of the PSA, the data for the 2011 to 2012 period were revised.

An overview of the scope and structure of the Pension Satellite Account as well as a description of the sources and methods used to derive its stocks and flows estimates are available in the Guide to the Canadian Pension Satellite Account (Catalogue number13-599-X) from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

The System of macroeconomic accounts module, accessible from the Browse by key resource module of our website, features an up-to-date portrait of national and provincial economies and their structure.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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