UK state pension provision trails other G7 countries by as much as half, research from AXA suggests today.
At just 31% of the UK's average earnings, the state pension is worth less than half than the equivalent for Italians, who retire with a state pension of 68% of average earnings.
The insurer compared figures for state pension provision relative to income for the UK against other G7 countries Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USA - the UK's ranking was "bottom of the pile".
The AXA research also suggests 64 % of UK residents expect to rely on a state pension as their main source of retirement income as more shun occupational pension schemes.
Steve Folkard, AXA head of savings and pensions policy, says: "There has to be a concerted, co-ordinated effort to make sure that people are adequately provided for, or we will inevitably be faced with a pensions dark age."
AXA has come out in support of calls for a structural review of state and occupational pensions, and is launching a UK-wide ‘Living on a State Pension' campaign to demonstrate consequences of current retirement inertia as part of My Budget Day 2009
It says its research also shows an "alarming decline" in the number of active members in occupational schemes, falling from 10.7 million in 1991 to just 8.8 million active members in 2007.
Research by the Pensions Policy Institute suggests Personal Accounts will improve this situation from 2012, but AXA points to its own research suggesting just 19% of people will take part in the automatically enrolled scheme.
AXA estimates that by 2020, there could be a rise of just 800,000 members in occupational pension schemes, far from the 10million private member estimations.
Folkard says: "The erosion of the once sound company pensions infrastructure in the UK, which supported the retirement needs of the working population over much of the 20th century presents a future government with a massive challenge.
Pensioner poverty is set to grow dramatically over the coming years and current reform measures will take years to implement.
He says he has major concerns about a lack of clarity on means-tested benefits, and the failure to bring forward automatic enrolment for existing schemes to increase take up.
"We risk heading past the point of no return for many people in this country who may be left living on the very minimum in retirement."
Partner Insight: Continuing the Architas education series for clients.
What made financial headlines over the weekend?
290,000 already affected
Putting the tech into protection
Square Mile’s series of informal interviews