Auto enrolment and debt

With support from the BlackRock Foundation, the Money and Pensions Service and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, we’re working with Experian and researchers in the Economics faculties of the University of Nottingham and Harvard University to understand the interactions between auto enrolment and debt.

Most people who’ve been automatically enrolled haven’t opted out, so their employers are deducting money from each payslip to put into an illiquid pension pot. And that’s a good thing. The implicit assumption behind the auto enrolment policy is that people are covering the cost of these deductions by slightly reducing their spending. But what if some of them are taking on more debt to compensate for the cost of these contributions? What would the effect of that be on their wider financial situation? Up to now, there’s been no way to find out whether this is happening. We’ve generated a new dataset that matches up people’s pension and credit records, giving us a powerful data asset for research while preserving people’s data privacy. Work is under way to examine these data and we’ll be excited to share the results in 2023.

Our programme partners

BlackRock is a global investment manager serving the UK market for more than 30 years with a purpose to help more and more people experience financial well-being. BlackRock’s Emergency Savings Initiative is made possible through philanthropic support from the BlackRock Foundation. The initiative brings together partner companies and non-profit financial health experts to make saving easier and more accessible for low- to moderate-income people across the US and UK, ultimately helping more people to establish an important financial safety net. For more information, visit:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading financial services firm based in the United States of America (“U.S.”), with operations worldwide. JPMorgan Chase had $4.0 trillion in assets and $285.9 billion in stockholders’ equity as of March 31, 2022. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing and asset management. Under the J.P. Morgan and Chase brands, the Firm serves millions of customers in the U.S., and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients globally. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at

The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) vision is: ‘everyone making the most of their money and pensions’. MaPS is an arm’s-length body committed to providing access to the information and guidance people across the UK need to make effective financial decisions over their lifetimes. For more information, visit 

Our research and delivery partners

Alongside researchers at Harvard University, we’re collaborating with:

Experian is the world’s leading global information services company. During life’s big moments – from buying a home or a car, to sending a child to college, to growing a business by connecting with new customers – they empower consumers and their clients to manage their data with confidence. Experian help individuals to take financial control and access financial services, businesses to make smarter decisions and thrive, lenders to lend more responsibly, and organisations to prevent identity fraud and crime. For more information, visit:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the world’s top 100. The university prides itself in unlocking the potential of its students and offering a life-changing experience. It has a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of its founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen it lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia – part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. The University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its status as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. It’s ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014, and has six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, it also leads the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic. To find out more, visit:

  • Understand the impact of mandatory or quasi-mandatory increases in pension saving on household debt.
  • Identify whether increased pension contributions are wholly or largely funded through reduced consumption or increased debt – or a combination.

To understand the cause-and-effect relationship between pension deductions and credit, we’ve taken advantage the large-scale, staggered roll out of automatic enrolment among smaller UK employers between 2015 and 2017. Employers with fewer than 30 employees were assigned automatic enrolment duty dates at random over a 22 month period. Using linked Nest and credit file data, we are estimating the effects on:

  • debt (secured, unsecured, revolving, non-revolving)
  • creditworthiness (bankruptcy, default, credit score)
  • pension contributions.