Japan eyes expansion of defined-contribution pensions

TOKYO - The Japanese government submitted a bill to the Diet on Friday to expand access to defined-contribution pension plans, seeking to better reflect the country's changing work environment.

Japan has two types of defined-contribution pension plans: employer-run plans, and ones where individuals are the sole contributors. The bill could let the nation's 9.5 million housewives and 4.4 million government employees access the latter option starting in January 2017.

The legislation would allow stay-at-home spouses to make a maximum yearly contribution of 276,000 yen ($2,280), with public employees able to contribute up to 144,000 yen. The roughly 13 million private-sector workers currently eligible for employer-run plans would be able to opt for the personal plans as well.

The bill also gives workers more flexibility in rolling over their retirement assets to a new job. Workers currently can transfer funds between two companies that offer defined-benefit plans but cannot move defined-contribution assets to a company that offers only defined-benefit plans.

About 5 million people participate in a defined-contribution plan in Japan, which the government hopes will supplement the country's struggling public pension system.

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