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Fairness of Public Pensions and Old-Age Poverty

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  • Friedrich Breyer
  • Stefan Hupfeld

Abstract

In several OECD countries, public pay-as-you-go financed pension systems have undergone major reforms in which future retirement benefit promises have been scaled down. A consequence of these reforms is that especially in countries with a tight tax-benefit linkage, the retirement benefit claims of low-income workers might not even exceed the minimum income guarantee which the government provides the aged. Recently, some German politicians have criticized this likely development because it was unjust that persons who have paid contributions over a long working life end up with no higher benefits than people who have never worked or paid any contributions. However, the government defended the current retirement benefit formula with the argument that every Euro paid as contributions had exactly the same value in generating future retirement benefits. But this logic has been questioned recently, e.g. by Breyer and Hupfeld (2009), since the value of a contributed Euro depends on the life expectancy of the individual, which is positively correlated with annual income. In that earlier paper, we introduced the concept of "distributive neutrality", which takes income-group-specific differences in life expectancy into account. The present paper estimates the relationship between annual earnings and life expectancy of German retirees empirically and shows how the formula that links benefits to contributions would have to be modified to achieve distributive neutrality. We compare the new formula to the benefit formulas in other OECD countries and analyze a data set provided by the German Pension Insurance Office on a large cohort of pensioners to find out how the old-age poverty rate would be affected by the proposed change of the benefit formula. Finally, we discuss other possible effects of a change in the benefit formula, especially on the labour supply of different earnings groups.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 817.

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Length: 20 p.
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp817

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Keywords: Social security; life expectancy; poverty; redistribution;

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Cited by:
  1. Niklas Potrafke, 2011. "Unemployment, Human Capital Depreciation and Pension Benefits: An Empirical Evaluation of German Data," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2011-05, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
  2. Fehr, Hans & Jokisch, Sabine & Kallweit, Manuel & Kindermann, Fabian & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 2013. "Generational Policy and Aging in Closed and Open Dynamic General Equilibrium Models," Handbook of Computable General Equilibrium Modeling, Elsevier.
  3. Fehr, Hans & Kallweit, Manuel & Kindermann, Fabian, 2013. "Should pensions be progressive?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 94-116.
  4. Friedrich Breyer & Normann Lorenz & Thomas Niebel, 2012. "Health Care Expenditures and Longevity: Is there a Eubie Blake Effect?," Research Papers in Economics 2012-01, University of Trier, Department of Economics.
  5. Stefan Arent & Alexander Eck & Oskar Krohmer & Robert Lehmann & Wolfgang Nagl & Joachim Ragnitz & Marcel Thum, 2011. "Wirtschaftliche Entwicklung Sachsens im Ländervergleich: Bestandsaufnahme und Perspektiven: Gutachten im Auftrag der Sächsischen Staatskanzlei," ifo Dresden Studien, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 59, October.
  6. Kallweit, Manuel & Fehr, Hans & Kindermann, Fabian, 2011. "Should pensions be progressive? Yes, at least in Germany!," Annual Conference 2011 (Frankfurt, Main): The Order of the World Economy - Lessons from the Crisis 48708, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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