'Australia has set up an effective system of forced pension saving'

November 2, 2006

Pensions expert and LSE deputy director Paul Johnson is heading for Australia to hone his management skills

Improving his family's quality of life was high on the list when Paul Johnson, deputy director of the London School of Economics, chose to accept the job as vice-chancellor of La Trobe University in Melbourne.

It is not his first experience of Australia. In his 22 years at the LSE, he has held visiting fellowships at Melbourne University and the Australian National University, where he wrote his book, Ageing and Economic Welfare .

Professor Johnson combines his post as deputy director with a chair in economic history, and has carried out work for the Australian Productivity Commission on the economics of retirement and old age.

"Australia has a relatively young demographic structure. It's a migrant society," he said. "This wasn't the determining factor, but my wife and I believe our children's quality of life will probably be better than in London. In the somewhat dubious polls, Melbourne consistently comes out as one of the top three most livable cities."

His experience as deputy director convinced him he would like to develop his career in university management, with a vice-chancellor's post the obvious next step. His UK expertise is likely to be useful as Australia gears up for its first equivalent of the research assessment exercise.

But one area where Australia is leading the UK is pensions. "Despite the efforts of many social scientists, it seems to me that (UK) pension reform proposals still leave the country with the world's most complex system," he said. "More by chance than by design, Australia has established an effective system of compulsory pension saving."

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