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Pensions, Purchasing-Power Risk, Inflation and Indexation

  • Edward R. Whitehouse


The rapid rise in inflation in 2006-07 has attracted attention – once again – both to how pensions systems should react to changes in prices, and to how they do so in practice. Although inflation is now falling as a result of lower commodity prices and weakening demand, this brings with it the risk of deflation – falling prices – which also raises questions as to how pension systems should react. Most OECD countries have a legislated commitment to indexation of pensions in payment. However, the empirical evidence in this paper shows that these rules have frequently been over-ridden. Furthermore, because indexation to price inflation rather than wage inflation is much more common – and wages can be expected to rise more rapidly than prices – the effect of following legislated indexation rules will be to reduce pensioner incomes compared with those of the working-age population. However, indexation to prices is less costly, allowing a larger initial pension than under earnings indexation for a given budget constraint. This paper sets out current, national indexation policies and historical data on how pensions have been adjusted in practice. It examines different indexation policies: to prices, earnings or a mix of the two; the choice of the price index and progressive indexation (where smaller pensions are increased more rapidly than larger). La forte reprise de l’inflation en 2006-07 a, de nouveau, attiré l’attention à la fois sur la manière dont les régimes de pensions devraient réagir aux évolutions des prix, et sur la manière dont ils réagissent dans les faits. Même si l’inflation est actuellement en chute, par suite de la baisse des prix des matières premières et de l’affaiblissement de la demande, il en résulte un risque de déflation – c’est-à-dire de chute des prix – qui conduit aussi à s’interroger sur la manière dont les régimes de pensions devraient réagir. Dans la plupart des pays de l’OCDE, la loi prévoit l’indexation obligatoire des prestations de retraite. Cependant, les données d’observation réunies dans le présent document montrent que, bien souvent, ces règles sont négligées. Par ailleurs, dans la mesure où le plus souvent, cette l’indexation s’opère beaucoup sur les prix plutôt que sur les salaires,– et que l’on peut s’attendre à ce que les salaires augmentent plus rapidement que les prix – l’application des règles d’indexation prescrites par la loi aura pour effet de réduire les revenus des retraités par rapport à ceux de la population en âge de travailler. Toutefois, l’indexation sur les prix étant moins onéreuse, cela permet de servir un montant initial de pension plus élevé que dans le cas d’une indexation sur la base des gains, pour un niveau donné de contrainte budgétaire. Le document présente différentes politiques nationales d’indexation en vigueur ainsi que des données historiques retraçant l’évolution des modalités concrètes d’ajustement des pensions. Il passe en revue différentes options : indexation sur les prix, sur les gains ou formule mixte ; choix de l’indice des prix et indexation progressive (lorsque les pensions moins élevées augmentent plus vite que les pensions plus élevées).

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers with number 77.

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Date of creation: 28 Jan 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:oec:elsaab:77-en
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