Studies analysing welfare have previously focused on countries as units. In the course of pension cuts and the increasing importance of occupational welfare, our traditional understanding of a homogeneous welfare state is being challenged. In this article, I distinguish between both economic individual power (employee skills) and political collective power (trade unions), and their relation with different occupational pensions. A combined analysis by both factors is not common, where employee skills and power resources are traditionally treated as separate, rival explanations of public welfare. Combining the ‘method of difference with the ‘method of agreement, the article first presents the within-country variety of occupational pensions in Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Denmark. Occupational pensions in the same economic sectors across countries are then used as the units of analysis in order to illustrate the plausible determinants of economic individual power and political collective power.