The Future of Pensions in Europe
AbstractUnfunded state pension schemes are projected to become financially unsustainable. This is usually attributed to demographic trends. Yet trends in unemployment and in female labour force participation are quantitatively as important. Improvements in either or both might be sufficient to rescue existing state schemes, especially if combined with an end to the practice of allowing, even after retirement, the value of a pension to rise with national earnings rather than prices. Attempts at piecemeal reform are important because nothing in economic theory suggests a switch to the alternative, fully funded pensions is desirable. Not only would such a transition be costly, and therefore politically difficult; it also neglects the fact that it makes sense to diversify the retirement portfolio, holding claims both on labour productivity and on capital assets. One can even view pensions as part of a more sophisticated system of intergenerational transfers through which workers finance their earlier education and subsequent retirement.
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