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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Friedrich Breyer & Stefan Hupfeld, 2008. "Fairness of Public Pensions and Old-Age Poverty," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 817, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp817
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. von Gaudecker, Hans-Martin & Scholz, Rembrandt, 2006. "Lifetime Earnings and Life Expectancy," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 07-05, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    2. Stefan Traub & Tim Krieger, 2008. "Back to Bismarck? Shifting Preferences for Intragenerational Redistribution in OECD Pension Systems," LIS Working papers 485, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    3. Breyer Friedrich & Hupfeld Stefan, 2010. "On the Fairness of Early-Retirement Provisions," German Economic Review, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 60-77, February.
    4. Robert Fenge & Silke Uebelmesser & Martin Werding, 2006. "On the Optimal Timing of Implicit Social Security Taxes Over the Life Cycle," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 62(1), pages 68-107, March.
    5. Friedrich Breyer & Stefan Hupfeld, 2010. "On the Fairness of Early‐Retirement Provisions," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 11(1), pages 60-77, February.
    6. Hans-Martin von Gaudecker & Rembrandt D. Scholz, 2007. "Differential mortality by lifetime earnings in Germany," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 17(4), pages 83-108.
    7. Breyer, Friedrich & Franz, Wolfgang & Homburg, Stefan & Schnabel, Reinhold & Wille, Eberhard, 2004. "Reform der sozialen Sicherung: Kurzfassung," EconStor Books, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, number 92399.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Markus Knell, 2017. "Actuarial Deductions for Early Retirement," Working Papers 215, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank).
    2. Haan, Peter & Kemptner, Daniel & Lüthen, Holger, 2020. "The rising longevity gap by lifetime earnings – Distributional implications for the pension system," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 17(C).
    3. Gilles Le Garrec, 2015. "Increased longevity and social security reform: questioning the optimality of individual accounts when education matters," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 329-352, April.
    4. Hans Fehr & Martin Werding & Axel Börsch-Supan & Alfred Boss & Jörg Asmussen & Enzo Weber & Markus Kurth, 2014. "Geplante Rentenreform: Größere Gerechtigkeit oder falsches Signal?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 67(05), pages 03-25, March.
    5. Potrafke, Niklas, 2012. "Unemployment, human capital depreciation and pension benefits: an empirical evaluation of German data," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 223-241, April.
    6. repec:clr:wugarc:y:2016v:42i:03p:465 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Kallweit, Manuel & Fehr, Hans & Kindermann, Fabian, 2011. "Should pensions be progressive? Yes, at least in Germany!," VfS Annual Conference 2011 (Frankfurt, Main): The Order of the World Economy - Lessons from the Crisis 48708, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    8. Volker Grossmann & Johannes Schünemann & Holger Strulik, 2021. "Fair Pension Policies with Occupation-Specific Aging," CESifo Working Paper Series 9180, CESifo.
    9. Fehr, Hans & Kallweit, Manuel & Kindermann, Fabian, 2013. "Should pensions be progressive?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 94-116.
    10. Ludwig, Alexander, 2016. "Das Deutsche Rentensystem: Thesen zur derzeitigen Diskussion um "Umkehr"-Reformen," SAFE White Paper Series 40, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
    11. 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, in: Peter B. Dixon & Dale Jorgenson (ed.), Handbook of Computable General Equilibrium Modeling, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 1719-1800, Elsevier.
    12. Markus Knell, 2016. "Grundlagen eines soliden und solidarischen Pensionskontensystems," Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft - WuG, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik, vol. 42(3), pages 465-495.
    13. Stefan Arent & Wolfgang Nagl, 2010. "A Fragile Pillar: Statutory Pensions and the Risk of Old-Age Poverty in Germany," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 66(4), pages 419-441, December.
    14. Monika Riedel & Helmut Hofer, 2013. "Determinants of the Transition from Work into Retirement," NRN working papers 2013-10, The Austrian Center for Labor Economics and the Analysis of the Welfare State, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    15. 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 - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, number 59, October.
    16. Friedrich Breyer & Normann Lorenz & Thomas Niebel, 2015. "Health care expenditures and longevity: is there a Eubie Blake effect?," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 16(1), pages 95-112, January.
    17. Hans Fehr & Franz Ruland & Gisela Färber & Annelie Buntenbach, 2012. "Beitragssenkung und Zuschussrente: Ist das eine nachhaltige Rentenpolitik?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 65(19), pages 04-16, October.
    18. Bofinger, Peter & Buch, Claudia M. & Feld, Lars P. & Schmidt, Christoph M. & Wieland, Volker, 2013. "Gegen eine rückwärtsgewandte Wirtschaftspolitik. Jahresgutachten 2013/14," Annual Economic Reports / Jahresgutachten, German Council of Economic Experts / Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung, volume 127, number 201314, November.
    19. No authors listed, 2016. "Überlegungen zur fairen und nachhaltigen Ausgestaltung eines Pensionskontensystems," Working Paper Reihe der AK Wien - Materialien zu Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 159, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social security; life expectancy; poverty; redistribution;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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