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The Intergenerational Dimension of Fiscal Sustainability

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  • Pedro Arévalo
  • Katia Berti
  • Alessandra Caretta
  • Per Eckefeldt

Abstract

Most countries, among which EU Member States, use public finances to redistribute resources from the working-age population to the old and the very young so as to smoothen resources over the life cycle of individuals. As the EU is confronted with population ageing, this societal model is facing challenges. This is particularly the case in light of public spending on pension and health care in the EU currently accounting for almost 20% of GDP and expected to remain major public spending items going forward. As such, and against the background of a rising dependency ratio, age-related public spending could lead to increasing tax burdens on future generations. This raises questions of intergenerational equity that cannot be measured by standard budgetary indicators, nor by traditional fiscal sustainability metrics (including the European Commission's fiscal sustainability gap indicators). Generational accounting allows calculating the present value of total net tax payments to the government (taxes paid minus transfers received) over the remaining lifetime of a cohort born in a specific year. Relying on harmonised data and the European Commission projections, including the Ageing Report, this paper estimates the lifetime fiscal burden and its distribution between current and future-born generations for all EU countries, disentangling the underlying determinants. Based on the generational accounts, two indicators measuring intertemporal and intergenerational imbalances are provided, the Intertemporal Budget Gap (IBG) and the AuerbachGokhale-Kotlikoff (AGK) indicators. The paper concludes that public finances in the EU face long-term fiscal sustainability challenges based on current policies and that there are intergenerational issues, entailing a larger adjustment for future generations.

Suggested Citation

  • Pedro Arévalo & Katia Berti & Alessandra Caretta & Per Eckefeldt, 2019. "The Intergenerational Dimension of Fiscal Sustainability," European Economy - Discussion Papers 2015 - 112, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  • Handle: RePEc:euf:dispap:112
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    File URL: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/economy-finance/dp112_en.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Franco, D. & Gokhale, J. & Guiso, L. & Kotlikoff, L.J. & Sartor, N., 1991. "Generational Accounting - The Case of Italy," Papers 18, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    4. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1994. "Generational Accounting: A Meaningful Way to Evaluate Fiscal Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 73-94, Winter.
    5. Pietro Rizza & Pietro Tommasino, 2010. "Do We Treat Future Generations Fairly? Italian Fiscal Policy Through the Prism of Generational Accounting," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 69(2), pages 115-153, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. María del Carmen Ramos-Herrera & Simón Sosvilla-Rivero, 2020. "Fiscal Sustainability in Aging Societies: Evidence from Euro Area Countries," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(24), pages 1-20, December.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • H6 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure

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