A new scheme to enrol private sector workers automatically in a pension scheme from 2022 must not be privatised but remain under State control, Labour's finance spokesperson has warned.

Joan Burton said the scheme needs to get under way as soon as possible and expressed concerns any privatisation of it would lead to significant charges for individuals.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said she understands that an authority will be set up to handle the pension contributions and suggested the Department of Social Protection is "well set up to handle this." 

Under the plans, all employees aged between 23 and 60 earning more than €20,000 a year, and not already in a workplace pension, will be enrolled. 

Employees will begin with a contribution of 1.5% rising to 6% of their salary - this will have to be matched by their employers. The State's contribution to the scheme is still under discussion. 

Ms Burton said the Government "must contribute" along with the individual and the employer.  

She said that the scheme is necessary to protect private sector workers who will rely on the State pension only as that will not be enough to provide people with a decent quality of life in old age.

Ms Burton said that funds also should be held in an individual's own name to guarantee it cannot be dispensed with by the State.

She said it is imperative employers get behind the scheme to retain staff and protect the workforce into old age.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said that the automatic State-assisted pension will tender next year for a carousel of providers, including private or public offerings.

Minister Doherty said the State contribution has yet to be finalised, but a figure of 2% has been mooted.

She said there are 585,000 people working in the private sector who have not saved a euro towards their retirement.

She said most employers supported the proposal, following consultations with ICTU and Ibec and the scheme will be managed by a central processing agency.