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Reforming Retirement-Income Systems: Lessons from the Recent Experiences of OECD Countries

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  • Martin, John P.

    ()
    (University College Dublin)

  • Whitehouse, Edward

    ()
    (OECD)

Abstract

Reforming pensions looms large over the policy agenda of OECD countries. This is hardly surprising since public spending on pensions accounted on average for 7 per cent of OECD GDP in 2005; and this pension spending effort is set to increase significantly over the coming decades in response to population ageing. Pension policy is indeed challenging and controversial because it involves long-term decisions in the face of numerous short-term political pressures. However, the status quo does not always win out so far as pension reform in concerned: public finance crises and the looming threat of ageing populations have proved effective spurs for reform. As a result, much has been done since the early 1990s to make pension systems fit for the future. Nearly all the 30 OECD countries have made at least some changes to their pension systems in that period. In 16 of them, there have been major reforms that will significantly affect future benefits. The purpose of this paper is to summarise these reforms and highlight the main lessons. Section 1 looks at which countries reformed their pensions systems and which did not. It also examines the fiscal challenges posed by public pensions. Section 2 describes the measures in the reforms themselves. These include, among other things, increases in pension age, changes in the way benefits are calculated and smaller pension increases in retirement than in the past. Section 3 explores the impact of these reforms on future pension entitlements of today’s retirees, showing a clear trend to a lower pension promise for today’s workers than for past generations. This means that people will need to save more for their own retirement via private pension schemes, an issue examined in Section 4. This is followed in Section 5 by a review of the main outstanding challenges facing pension systems in OECD countries. The final section presents some concluding remarks.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3521.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: May 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3521

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Related research

Keywords: reform of public and private pensions; replacement rates; pension wealth; mandatory and voluntary pensions; OECD pension reform challenges;

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References

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  1. Whitehouse, Edward & Queisser, Monika, 2007. "Pensions at a glance: public policies across OECD countries," MPRA Paper 16349, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2006. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Savings Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Working Papers 12009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Whitehouse, Edward, 2000. "Administrative charges for funded pensions: An international comparison and assessment," MPRA Paper 14172, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Thai-Thanh Dang & Pablo Antolín & Howard Oxley, 2001. "Fiscal Implications of Ageing: Projections of Age-Related Spending," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 305, OECD Publishing.
  5. Kwang-Yeol Yoo & Alain de Serres, 2004. "Tax Treatment of Private Pension Savings in OECD Countries and the Net Tax Cost Per Unit of Contribution to Tax-Favoured Schemes," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 406, OECD Publishing.
  6. Peter Whiteford & Edward Whitehouse, 2006. "Pension Challenges and Pension Reforms in Oecd Countries," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 78-94, Spring.
  7. Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Plan Design and 401(k) Savings Outcomes," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 275-98, June.
  8. Pablo Antolín & Edward R. Whitehouse, 2009. "Filling the Pension Gap: Coverage and Value of Voluntary Retirement Savings," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 69, OECD Publishing.
  9. Monika Queisser & Edward R. Whitehouse, 2006. "Neutral or Fair?: Actuarial Concepts and Pension-System Design," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 40, OECD Publishing.
  10. Edward R. Whitehouse, 2007. "Life-Expectancy Risk and Pensions: Who Bears the Burden?," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 60, OECD Publishing.
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Cited by:
  1. Aaron George Grech, 2012. "Evaluating the possible impact of pension reforms on future living standards in Europe," CASE Papers /161, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  2. Grech, Aaron George, 2010. "Assessing the sustainability of pension reforms in Europe," MPRA Paper 27407, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Gretchen Van Riesen, 2009. "The Pension Tangle: Achieving Greater Uniformity of Pension Legislation and Regulation in Canada," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 294, August.
  4. Javier Vázquez Grenno, 2009. "Spanish Pension System: Population Aging and Immigration Policy," Working Papers wpdea0902, Department of Applied Economics at Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona.

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