Democratic Governance of Funded Pension Schemes (DEEPEN)

Project focus

DEEPEN explores the democratic governance of capital-funded occupational pension schemes. We investigate how governments, regulators, and labor market actors govern funded pensions (input legitimacy) and whether participants are satisfied with pension fund performance (output legitimacy). The project focuses on Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland, and Spain because the structure of funded pension provision varies along key dimensions relevant to input and output legitimacy. The project combines quantitative analysis of survey data with comparative case studies based on elite and expert interviews and primary and secondary documents analysis.

Research questions

The project addresses the following research questions: How does the national policy define participant influence on funded pension provision? How do stakeholders use pension fund governance to influence investment policy? How have capital-funded pension schemes performed in pension outcomes across European welfare states? To what extent are individual attitudes on pension investment aligned with these inputs and outputs?


It will contribute to academic and policy debates through journal articles, a special issue, conference presentations, and outreach activities aimed at national and European policymakers and other stakeholders.


Project Leader:
Professor Dr. Karen M. Anderson, University College Dublin (Ireland)

Prof. Dr. Karen M. Anderson is an Associate Professor of Social Policy at University College Dublin. Her research focuses on comparative social policy development, the financialization of welfare, and the impact of Europeanization on national welfare states. She is the author of Social Policy in the European Union (Palgrave, 2015) and the editor (with Ellen M. Immergut, Camilla Devitt, and Tamara Popic) of the Handbook of Health Politics in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2021). She also edited (with Ellen M. Immergut and Isabelle Schulze) the Handbook of West European Pension Politics (Oxford University Press, 2007). Her work has been published in Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Journal of European Public Policy, Zeitschrift für Sozialreform, West European Politics, Canadian Journal of SociologyJournal for Labour Market Research, and the Journal of Public Policy. Karen is also the Chair-Elect of the Council for European Studies. Her two-year term began in July 2021.

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Tobias Wiß, Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (Austria)

Dr. Tobias Wiß is an Assistant Professor (tenure track) in Political Science and leader of the Research Group “Socioeconomic Developments and Social Policy Reforms: The Moderating Role of Political Institutions” at the Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU). Before joining JKU, he held postdoctoral appointments at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, the Johannes Kepler University Linz, and the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES). He was also visiting scholar at the University of Southampton, the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) Vienna, and the University of Warwick. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Mannheim. Tobias specializes in the comparative analysis of welfare states and the comparative political economy focusing on pensions, family policy, occupational welfare, and industrial relations. His research has been published in journals such as the Journal of European Public Policy, the Journal of European Social PolicySocial Policy & Administration, and the Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis.

Principal Investigator:
Professor Dr. Juan J. Fernández, University Carlos III of Madrid (Spain)

Prof. Dr. Juan J. Fernández is Associate Professor of Sociology (Profesor Titular) in the Social Science Department at the University Carlos III of Madrid. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009. His research interests include public policy attitudes, comparative politics, social policy reform, stratification, and social globalization. His single- or co-authored work has been published in journals like the American Journal of Sociology, European Sociological Review, Social Forces, Journal of European Social Policy, Social Problems, British Journal of Sociology, and European Union Politics. Most of his work is quantitative, but he is also keen on qualitative and theoretical research. His most recent work on social policy examines the impact of non-partisan information on pension policy preferences from a comparative perspective. Using an experimental design, that project shows that having non-partisan information on the projected level of public pension benefits increases support for reforms that improve the financial sustainability of public pension systems. Juan teaches courses on Comparative Sociology, Political Sociology, and Statistical Methods. He is married and has one daughter.

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Natascha van der Zwan, Leiden University (the Netherlands)

Dr. Natascha van der Zwan is an Assistant Professor in Public Administration at Leiden University. She does comparative and historical research on financialization and pension systems, investment rules and regulations, and sustainable finance. Her publications include the 2014 article “Making Sense of Financialization” (Socio-Economic Review), which has become a key article in scholarship on financialization. In addition, Natascha is co-editor (with Philip Mader and Daniel Mertens) of the Routledge International Handbook of Financialization (2020) and a member of the editorial board for the interdisciplinary journal Competition & Change. Before DEEPEN, she worked with Karen Anderson and Tobias Wiss on the NETSPAR-funded project “Pension Funds and Sustainable Investment: Comparing Regulation in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.” In 2020, their project “Nachhaltigkeit durch Betriebliche Altersvorsoge” (Sustainability through Occupational Pensions, 2021-2023) was funded by the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung.

Dr. Hayley James, University College Dublin (Ireland)

Dr. Hayley James is a post-doc researcher at University College Dublin. Hayley’s research interests concern anthropological and sociological perspectives on money, finance, and value and how they intersect with aging and the life course. Her Thesis, completed at the University of Manchester, examined the impact of automatic enrolment into workplace pensions in the UK on individual decision making using a qualitative research methodology (entitled Connecting Policy with the Personal: UK pension reforms and individual financial decision making). Her work was collaboratively sponsored by the Pensions Policy Institute, an expert organization that undertakes rigorous research on pensions policy from an independent, long-term perspective. The first academic article from her Thesis, which considers how people make decisions about later life, has been published in the Journal of Ageing Studies.

Thomas Mayer, Johannes Kepler Universität Linz (Austria)

Thomas is a prae-doc focusing on pension governance in Austria and Germany. Having studied comparative social policy and welfare, he is interested in the influence of trade unions in corporatist welfare states on pension policymaking. For his master thesis, Thomas dealt with individual, occupational and institutional factors affecting late retirement in Austria and Germany, analyzing the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement (SHARE). Before receiving the opportunity to join the DEEPEN team, Thomas worked at the Department of Sociology at the University of Vienna, specializing in social gerontology and at the Austrian Chamber of Labour. He holds a double degree (Master of Social Sciences, MSSc) at the University of Linz, Austria, and Tampere University, Finland. Besides his interest in pension policy, Thomas likes playing Badminton and video games.

Dr. Philipp Golka, Leiden University (the Netherlands)

Dr. Philipp Golka is a postdoc with the DEEPEN team, where his focus is on pension governance in the Netherlands. Applying economic and organizational sociology to matters of political economy, Philipp is particularly interested in the intersection of states and financial markets. Here, his focus is on sustainable finance and the legitimacy of financial governance within the state. For his Ph.D., he studied how to impact investing emerged in lockstep with the increased role of HM Treasury in social policy in the United Kingdom. Before joining DEEPEN, he worked as a consultant with the in-house consulting firm of the German federal government, where he advised several ministries and authorities on federal and state levels on various issues of strategy. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Jena, Germany. In addition, he has been a research associate at Eve Chiapello’s research project on the financialization of the public interest at EHESS Paris and the University of Hamburg. Besides research, he enjoys nature, choir singing, and good coffee.

Sara Gonzales, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain)

Sara Gonzales is a Peruvian economist doing a Ph.D. in Social Science at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, where she also did a master’s in social science. Before the Master’s, Sara worked in both the private and public sectors in Peru. In the public sector, she worked as a policy analyst for several government agencies, such as the National Tax Agency, the Ministry of Production, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance. In her last job, she investigated issues related to efficiency in public spending for the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Before that, Sara was responsible for making reports about different productive sectors with excellent growth potential in the Ministry of Production. However, they couldn’t become a growth engine due to a lack of support in modernization or management matters. She was also part of a project that focused on measuring business innovation. She worked closely with the National Statistics Office to develop the National Survey of Innovation and the National Survey of Firms. The main goal was to provide theoretical and empirical evidence to support different policy statements. The interests of Sara Gonzales are in the fields of political behavior and comparative politics. Other areas of research she is interested in are sociological analysis and social stratification.

Abdelkarim Megaiz, Leiden University (the Netherlands)

Abdelkarim Megaiz studies Public Administration at Leiden University and is a student assistant for the DEEPEN project.