Although equity markets came back in the first quarter of 2012, the financial status of pension plans has only improved slightly, according to Aon Hewett. The median pension funded ratio of a large sample of pension plans increased only 1 percentage point to 69 percent from the end of 2011 to March 2012. About 97 percent of pension plans in this sample were running a deficit.

A pension plan's funded ratio measures its total plan assets against its liabilities, or what it must pay out to pensioners every year.

According to the report, the average pension fund earned an average 3.6 percent in the first quarter.

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