The economic crisis presents a good opportunity for radical pension reform in Ireland, according to Australia's minister in charge of retirement funds.

Senator Nick Sherry, who has been central to Australia's 20-year development of a nationwide mandatory pension scheme, said appetite to fix a pension system was greatest when underfunding was most exposed. He was in Dublin last week for an Irish Association of Pension Funds seminar.

"When we introduced compulsion in Australia it was very tough economic times," he said. "Almost 11% unemployment when we started compulsory superannuation. It helped make it more persuasive. There is no doubt the acceptance of the closure of defined benefit schemes was more readily accepted because liabilities were going to keep growing and add to government debt."

Up to 90% of private-sector pension schemes do not meet the minimum funding standard set by the Pensions Board, meaning the funds are inadequate to cover all liabilities.