Icelandic pension funds are in possession of considerable pension premiums they can’t refund or pay out because they can’t locate foreign workers who’ve left the country. The money can’t be taken on behalf of other pensioners because it isn’t known if the people are alive or dead. People from outside of the EEA and the US can have their pension premiums refunded when they leave the country but often they are not aware and leave the money behind.
About 2000 of Stapi Pension fund members have reached the age of 60 but have moved from the country and haven’t applied to have their pensions paid out. About half are Polish citizens who worked in Iceland for some period of time and gained pension rights. “We want to get the money to the people it belongs to, but if people don’t inquire about it themselves, and they haven’t left an email or a forwarding address, we have no chance of finding them. There’s a chance that some foreign citizens won’t collect their pension,” says Jóna Finndís Jónsdóttir, director of entitlements with the Stapi Pension fund.
According to Jóna, the amounts vary but many have the right to around 1 million ISK before taxes. The pension fund can’t take these funds into joint ownership until the fund member passes away but the pension fund has no way to find out if people are still alive. “There is no pan-European registry and we don’t know where people live or when they die so we can’t get information to them or check up on them,” says Jóna Finndís.
People who live outside the EEA and the US don’t have to wait to turn 60 to get their pensions paid out, they can have their premiums repaid when they move away from Iceland. In order to do that, they have to turn in a relocation confirmation, a statement from their employer and a copy of their plane ticket from Iceland. A group of people from Australia and New Zealand who came to Iceland to work in the meat industry has earned some rights in the Stapi pension fund, probably without their knowledge. “We would definitely want to see more cooperation between the pension funds, the Social Insurance Administration, and the National Registry to keep track of these individuals and their rights. Some part of that group, and we don’t know how many, had failed to inquire about their rights. Until now, nothing has been depreciated and there’s nothing in any rulebooks that allows us to do so,” says Jóna Finndís
Some of these 2000 people are people who haven’t applied for their pension payments yet, some are Icelanders who have moved abroad and others are choosing to delay their pensions payments. It can be assumed that other pension funds have the same problem.
According to Jóna Finndís, employers should remind their foreign staff of their rights when they quit. “We would like pension members to leave a forwarding address or, better yet, an email address. They tend to last longer than the forwarding addresses.”