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Aiming Big through Micro pension

The public private partnership for sustainable micro-pension system in developing countries since its inception in early 2012 has enrolled already five thousand and more participants in India. This has been ensured through effective collaboration of the Association of Insurers, the Association of Industry-wide Pension Funds (VB), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indian partner DHAN Foundation. These parties met on September 13 at the Covenant.

India is seen as one of the major emerging economies and more than 1.1 billion population. Nighty percent of Indian people are engaged in unorganized work. The growing number of elderly people in the country cannot count on a decent pension. The country has roughly one-third of its population living below the poverty line. To halt the present trend and  ensure a decent living for the elderly people Association of Insurers and the Association of Pension Funds Industry  entered into a unique partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairsia. The Partnership is to cooperate in the sustainable Foundation (micro) pensions developing countries.

The country India was selected for piloting and deployment of micro-pension schemes, for replication of the same in other developing countries. DHAN Foundation is the local partner which has been working with the Dutch insurer Achmea for more than a decade for poverty alleviation through micro-insurance schemes. The present pension initiative builds on the success of earlier micro-insurance schemes implemented through DHAN Foundation. This scheme assures the Indian youth of a decent post retirement life. On 13th September delegates from DHAN Foundation viz. Mr Vasimalai, Executive Director, Mr. Kalyanasundaram, INAFI-India and Ms. Gayathri, People Mutuals visited Netharlands, who came to attend the meeting were given a warm welcome by the board of the Foundation for Sustainable (micro) pensions system. Richard Weurding, CEO, Jan Nijssen, the  Chairman, Liesbeth van der Kruit (CSR Director Achmea), Gerard Belts (director VB), Aaltje the Rose (observer of Foreign Affairs) and Marcel and Beukeboom (head of food security, including financial sector development in the Ministry of Ministry of Foreign Affairs) also participated in the meeting.

Since the start of the project (Q4 2011), by 30 June 2012 already 4869 members have joined in the micro-pension scheme, each of whom contribute Rs100/month (1.42 euro) from their meagre income as deposit into the personal micro-pension scheme. This micro pension is intended to supplement the state pension of 600 to 900 rupees per month. The project aims at covering 25,000 participants in the span of five years and 50,000 participants in eight years in 200 people federations promoted by DHAN Foundation.

“We have a good beginning. The concept seems to work and the board is confident after seeing the enrolment of 5000 participants just in three quarters since inception (8 months) said President Jan Nijssen. Mr. Vasimalai, Executive Director of DHAN Foundation, praised the local (micro-) pension for their commendable work. Interestingly, the largest group enrolled (1,370) falls in the age group of 18 – to 30-year olds.

Interview with our Visitors

Our Organization Achmea has been associating with DHAN Foundation, Madurai, India since 2002. The People Mutuals, an initiative of DHAN Foundation is providing micro insurance services to poor people, who the members of different thematic member organizations, that DHAN has promoted throughout India.  People Mutual provides life insurance, health insurance and crop insurance, designing exclusive products to meet the needs of poor. Achmea Foundation has rendered its support to hospitals promoted by DHAN.

In recent years several of our colleagues from Achmea has travelled to Madurai to support DHAN by sharing the wide knowledge that Achmea has in the field of micro insurance and for cross learning.  Our colleagues had an amazing experience in India, tried to adapt themselves to the Indian culture, the tropical temperature and the spicy diet. The culture was entirely different and they enjoyed the visit to the country. This time it was the other way round. A team from DHAN Foundation visited Netherlands. Mr Vasimalai, Executive Director of DHAN Foundation, Mr.Kalayanasundaram, CEO,  International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions- India (INAFI-India) and Ms. Gayathri, Tema Leader, People Mutuals were part of the team. They were here for cross country learning and for exploring the possibility of new colloborations.

We were curious to know how they felt about our country and the visit to Netharlands. Kalayasundaram wondered how come there are no bill boards and posters in Netherlands, despite being the elections scheduled the day after?. He also expressed his love for buttermilk in Netherlands and his difficulty in pronouncing and remembering Dutch names.

We posed few questions to them and they were glad to give a reply

What do you feel about our country Netherlands?

Gayathri: I’ve been here before to Achmea and every time we visit, the warm welcome given by Annette (Wood Room, Business Development Manager, Microinsurance)is the proof of hospitality of Dutch people. We can feel the hospitality even while landing at the airport. We feel like being in our own home. Even Annette cooks Indian foods for us. Also she was a regular visitor to our organization. Upon arriving we felt glad to see a face which was much familiar to her. The other people in Achmea and in Netharland are just wonderful, friendly and open to us.

Kalyanasundaram: Being from a multilingual country, we could say that we experience less language barrier here. Since all of one here converse in English, which all of us could understand very well. This also gives a very close feeling. We hence feel very comfortable in Netherlands, that too with people here in Achmea.

What is really different in  Netherlands than in India?

Gayathri: The way the things are organized here keeps us wondering. The infrastructural facilities in the country are amazing. Its much better than in our country .We are quite used to the way it is done in India and find it really interesting to see how different it is in the Netherlands.
With respect to the climate, it was a freezing cold here and we found very difficult to cope with the temperature during our last visit. The cold was terrible indeed. This time we have come prepared with thicker clothes, blankets and sweaters.

Kalyanasundaram: The Netherlands is a small country compared to India and you notice that only smaller differences within the country. We have been to north and to the south of the Netherlands before. All the people here speak the same language and the landscape looks very similar. In India, people cannot understand each other as they travel from north to south or vice versa. We have so many different languages. Actually, every province in our country, is a country in itself, with its own language and other landscapes and nature.

What do you hope to accomplish this week in the Netherlands?

Gayathri: We hope to speak to organizations that have matching interests with the DHAN Foundation. We like to share our knowledge and also enter into collaborations. We see this week of visit as an investigative phase through which we can get an Idea about areas of collaboration. We wish our organization continue to engage in developmental works and to provide poor people with wide range of products. For this we are ready to step outside of our country to upgrade our knowledge so that it will facilitate to achieve great feat. The time we spend in Netherlands and the conversations we have with you will help us with this.

Today you were at the office in Zeist, which fell on you?

Kalyanasundaram: The people here behave very informally and relate with us easily. Their easy going nature is what we admire most. At the same time they are seemed to be more focussed in their work and work hard. We were explained here at Achmea how a new work is undertaken and implemented at once. In India any work is done on experimental basis and its takes some time to accomplish a task. We wish that works are done in India in a fact pace as it is happening now in Achmea.  Our colleagues way back in India are always very curious to know  about Netherlands and works done here. On our return we always share what we experienced in Netherlands and it is a fun to share.

Will you come back again to Netherlands?

Gayathri: We hope that our cooperation with Achmea continues for long run. We have much to learn from each other. I wish to visit Netherland again, learn few more new things and share it to others in our country. I also noticed that people here are very keen to know about the works we do and the way we do.  I hope this win-win situation will continue for long time and allow we for subsequent visits.

Achmea

Achmea is a private company with limited liability. Its statutory seat is in Amsterdam and its head offices are in Zeist, both in the Netherlands. The main shareholders are unlisted European companies and associations with cooperative roots.

Established in 1811 to provide mutual insurance at a reasonable premium, today Achmea (formerly known as Eureko) is the biggest insurance provider in the Netherlands. But Achmea does not remain complacent. Its cooperative roots mean Achmea must remain customer focused, while delivering results to all its stakeholders. Their main shareholders are Vereniging (Association) Achmea and Rabobank, are also cooperative organisations.

Achmea focus more on stakeholder model, encompassing its customers, (distribution) partners, employees and shareholders, with customers first among equals. And, as a cooperative, it believes that it forms an integral part of the communities with whom it operated. This hence enforces more responsibility as a organization.

Dutch Association of Insurers

The Dutch Association of Insurers represents the interests of private insurance companies operating in the Netherlands. The Association’s members represent more than 95 percent of the insurance market expressed in terms of gross premium income. The Association is an independent organisation managed and financed by its members.

The Association has four main tasks as a trade association:

  • Representing its members to the outside world
  • Promoting the image of the insurance industry
  • Providing a platform for sharing and representing
  • Providing services as a  center of expertise for its members

The Dutch Association of Insurers has an executive board and four boards for specific sectors: Working Conditions, Life Insurance, Non-life Insurance and Health Insurance. Each sector board takes decisions on subjects specifically relating to the sector and is assisted by various committees. The Association’s executive board is responsible for general policy and decides on issues of major political importance, even where they relate to a specific sector. The executive board also deals with subjects which transcend the insurance industry, such as consumer policy, corporate social responsibility, medical-ethical issues, crime prevention and control, supervision of the insurance industry and reporting.

Vereniging van Bedrijfstakpensioenfondsen (VB) – Association of Industry wide Pension Funds

The Dutch Association of Industry-wide Pension Funds (VB) was founded on 22 April 1985. On behalf of its members VB promotes the pension interests of approximately 4.7 million participants, over 1.2 million pensioners and 6.8 million early leavers. Nearly all industry wide pension funds are associated with VB.VB’s members represent over 75% of the total number of participants in collective pension schemes. The total investments of its members amount to about EUR 500 billion VB has a key role between members, politics and society. VB is continually occupied with translating the signals of its members to the policymakers in The Hague, Amsterdam and Brussels. At the same time VB monitors the public and points out developments, which it passes on to its members. VB is represented in the European pension umbrella EFRP and is a member of the European umbrella of joint organisations, AEIP.

What is an industry-wide pension fund?

As an employer in, for example, the building sector, retail trade, catering sector, care or graphic sector, you have to join the industry-wide pension fund (bedrijfstakpensioenfonds). You also must have a pension scheme. This also applies if you work as a self-employed person or freelancer in these sectors. In certain sectors your employees are obliged to participate in this scheme.

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