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Winners and Losers: The Inequities within Government-Sector, Defined-Benefit Pension Plans


  • Geoffrey Young

    (Discovery Economic Consulting)


There are little-acknowledged yet striking inequities built into the payout formulas of defined-benefit (DB) pension plans, which are typically provided to government employees across Canada. An analysis of representative DB plans shows they systematically transfer income away from groups of employees in occupations with slow wage growth to employees in occupations or careers with higher wage growth rates; this often means from low-income clerks to high-income deputy ministers. The winners are “high-flying” employees who are likely to enjoy pensions that exceed the value of the accumulated employee and employer contributions in their “accounts” at retirement, while the losers are those who would be better off if they simply received the value of their contributions plus interest rather than rely on future payments from a discounted pension. However, public-sector DB plans could be redesigned to retain much of their appealing certainty and efficiency without redistributing retirement income among members to the extent that they now do.

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey Young, 2012. "Winners and Losers: The Inequities within Government-Sector, Defined-Benefit Pension Plans," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 347, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdh:commen:347

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Casey B Mulligan, 1999. "Gerontocracy, Retirement, and Social Security," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 154, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
    2. James E. Pesando, 2008. "Risky Assumptions: A closer Look at the Bearing of Investment Risk in Defined-Benefit Pension Plans," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 266, June.
    3. Tammy Schirle, 2008. "Greener Pastures: Understanding the Impact of Retirement Incentives in Defined-benefit Pension Plans," C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, C.D. Howe Institute, issue 262, May.
    4. Charles Sutcliffe, 2007. "Should Defined Benefit Pension Schemes be Career Average or Final Salary?," ICMA Centre Discussion Papers in Finance icma-dp2007-06, Henley Business School, Reading University.
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    More about this item


    Pension Papers; Governance & Public Institutions; Canada; defined-benefit (DB) pension plans; public sector;

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions


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