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Political economy and pensions in ageing societies – a note on how an ”impossible” reform was implemented in Sweden




Ageing puts a strain on most countries’ pension systems; forecasts show them to be more or less unsustainable. Evidence from social choice research, theoretical as well as empirical, does not seem to offer a way out of the dilemma, as the median voter will resist a reform. Despite this, Sweden has implemented a major reform, supposedly making the system sustainable. The question in this paper is thus: how was it possible to launch such a reform in Sweden? The analysis is based on majority voting models. Important explanatory factors are age structure as well as the age of the median voter; both of these go against the probability of a reform. A focus on age structure in combination with transitional rules and specific features of the reform may provide an explanation.

Suggested Citation

  • Kruse, Agneta, 2005. "Political economy and pensions in ageing societies – a note on how an ”impossible” reform was implemented in Sweden," Working Papers 2005:35, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2005_035

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre, 2000. "Reforming our pension system: Is it a demographic, financial or political problem?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(4-6), pages 974-983, May.
    2. Sinn, Hans-Werner & Uebelmesser, Silke, 2003. "Pensions and the path to gerontocracy in Germany," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 153-158, March.
    3. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
    4. Breyer, Friedrich & Craig, Ben, 1997. "Voting on social security: Evidence from OECD countries," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 705-724, December.
    5. Daniele Franco, 2002. "Italy: A Never-Ending Pension Reform," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Pension Reform in Europe, pages 211-262 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Browning, Edgar K, 1975. "Why the Social Insurance Budget Is Too Large in a Democracy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(3), pages 373-388, September.
    7. Verbon, Harrie, 1993. "Public Pensions: The Role of Public Choice and Expectations," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 6(2), pages 123-135, May.
    8. Kruse, Agneta & Nyberg, Kristian, 2004. "Pensions and external effects of ageing; effects on distribution," Working Papers 2004:27, Lund University, Department of Economics.
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    More about this item


    political economy; pension reform; median voter; age structure;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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