Start retirement saving now or the UK government may make you

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SummaryBritain may soon have to force workers to start retirement savings to cut a soaring pensions bill set to reach 120 billion pounds in 20 years.

employer by October 2018.

Someone earning 26,200 pounds ($41,400) a year, for example, would generate 4,667 pounds of employer contributions over 10 years, based on the auto-enrolment pension contribution guidelines, according to estimates by fund manager Fidelity Worldwide Investment.

Companies with more than 120,000 employees were required to start auto-enrolment in the second half of last year. For small firms employing between 50-89 staff the deadline is July 2014.

Eleven big companies, including supermarket chains J. Sainsbury and WM Morrison have introduced the scheme. But other large firms have not done so yet.

A spokesman for Morrisons told Reuters that one-fifth of their qualifying workers, many within 20 years of retirement, had opted-out of the workplace pension scheme.

The spokesman said Morrisons supported government efforts to get people saving for retirement. "We have a large proportion of our employees in their 40s and 50s and we want them to work on voluntarily not because they can't afford to retire."

A manager at fashion retailer Next said: "I figured I'm 27 and should start some kind of pension so I haven't opted out," she told Reuters. But she also said would pull out if the contributions had a big impact on her monthly disposable income.

If Britain does make pension saving compulsory, it will join a long list of countries that have tried to cut their pensions bill in this way.

New Zealand's KiwiSaver plan, launched in 2007, takes contributions from the government, employers and staff and locks the savings away until people turn 65, but there are exceptions for those buying a first home or in cases of hardship.

In 2009, 35 percent of people were opting out of the New Zealand scheme but that has dropped to 6 percent in 2012, David Knox, senior partner of Mercer Consulting (Australia) Ltd, said.

Australia's government introduced a compulsory pension system in 1992 which set up state-supported superannuation funds, where employers are required to put in 9 percent of staff salary. That is due to increase to 12 percent by 2020.

"People in Australia and New Zealand are now more engaged with pension saving - there is general acceptance that you can't rely on the government to fully support you in retirement," Knox said.

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