This book explores the changing structure of employee benefit programs and the nature
of decision making as it pertains to these programs.
Clearly, the dynamics of the work place are changing. In the past, employee benefits
were considered tools for long-term retention and retirement management. Today, employers,
faced with the challenge of attracting and keeping quality employees, are using benefits
such as defined contribution plans and new individual account defined benefit plans
primarily as recruitment and near-term retention tools. These plans emphasize wealth
accumulation, not retirement income. In addition, concern about high costs has led many
employers to share at least some of the financial cost and risk associated with retirement
and medical benefits directly with employees. Other employers—especially small and
relatively new firms, which account for most recent job growth—are responding to this
concern by offering fewer benefits. International competitiveness accounts for yet another
force for change. The "new economy" has focused firms on survival. No longer are
benefit plans designed against a backdrop of assumed profitability and enterprise
continuation. Job entitlement has been replaced by performance measurement.
The papers in this book provide valuable insights into the thought processes behind
employee benefit programs' changing objectives, and discuss why change will continue and
where it is likely to take us. The authors view the future prospects of employee benefit
programs from a number of different perspectives, including labor, government, academia,
and business. Whether optimistic or pessimistic, most agree that it is important for the
government and employers to recognize the substantial advantages these programs continue
to offer American workers and their families.