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Pensions at a glance: public policies across OECD countries

Listed author(s):
  • Whitehouse, Edward
  • Queisser, Monika

This second edition of Pensions at a Glance updates all the important indicators of retirement-income systems developed for the first edition. The values of all pension system parameters reflect the situation in the year 2004. The general approach adopted is a “microeconomic” one, looking at prospective individual entitlements under all 30 of OECD member countries’ pension regimes. The report starts by showing the different schemes that together make up national retirement income provision, including a summary of the parameters and rules of pension systems. This is followed by eight main indicators of pension income that are calculated using the OECD pension models. This issue also contains two special analyses on pension reforms and private pensions, which use the OECD pension models to explore more deeply the central issues of pension policy in national debates. Finally, the report provides detailed background information on each of the 30 countries’ retirement-income arrangements. For workers at average earnings, the average for the OECD countries of the gross replacement rate, i.e. the ratio between pension benefit and pre-retirement earnings, from mandatory pensions is 58.7%. But taxes play an important role in old-age support. Pensioners often do not pay social security contributions and, as personal income taxes are progressive and pension entitlements are usually lower than earnings before retirement, they usually pay less taxes. For average earners, the net replacement rate across OECD countries is nearly 70% on average, some 11 percentage points higher than the average gross replacement rate. For low earners, the average net replacement rate across OECD countries is 83%. But there are regional differences: the Nordic countries offer a 95% net replacement rate to workers on half average earnings while the Anglophone OECD countries pay 76% of previous net earnings. What matters for governments, however, is not only the replacement rate but the value of the overall pension promise. This is measured by the indicator of pension wealth which takes life expectancy and the indexation of pensions in payment into account. Using this indicator, the pension promise is most expensive in Luxembourg. On average, each male pensioner will receive the equivalent of USD 920 000 and each female retiree over USD 1 million. The Netherlands and Greece rank second and third on this measure. The most modest pension systems are those of Belgium, Ireland, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States where pension wealth is around two-thirds of the average for OECD countries. The lowest ranking is occupied by Mexico where men and women are promised a pension equivalent to USD 34 000 and 32 000, respectively. Nearly all the 30 OECD countries have made at least some changes to their pension systems since 1990. As a result, the average pension promise in the 16 countries - whose reforms are studied in this report - was cut by 22%. For women, the reduction was 25%. Only in two of the 16 countries – Hungary and the United Kingdom – were there increased pension promises on average. How will these changes affect different individuals? Some countries – such as France, Portugal and the United Kingdom – are moving towards greater targeting of public pensions on low earners thus bolstering the safety-net. Others – such as Poland and the Slovak Republic – have moved to tighten the link between pension entitlements and earnings, which may put low-earners at a higher risk of poverty. In Germany, Japan, Mexico, Poland and the Slovak Republic, for example, the net pension entitlement for a full-career worker with half average earnings was around 41% of average earnings before reform, slightly below the average for the OECD as a whole. The reforms will cut this to just 32.5%. In contrast, Finland, France, Hungary, Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have protected low-income workers from cuts in benefit in their pension reforms. The intense reform activity in OECD countries means that today’s workers will have to do more on their own to prepare for tomorrow’s retirement. In some countries, the savings effort necessary to reach the OECD average replacement rate is substantial, even if workers save throughout their entire career. If young workers miss out on the first 10 or 15 years of their career because of other demands on their budget, reaching a sufficient pension level will become even more difficult. This report illustrates how important it is that workers start saving early and contribute regularly.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 16349.

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Date of creation: May 2007
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:16349
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  1. Peter Whiteford & Edward Whitehouse, 2006. "Pension Challenges and Pension Reforms in Oecd Countries," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 78-94, Spring.
  2. George M. Constantinides & John B. Donaldson & Rajnish Mehra, 2002. "Junior Can't Borrow: A New Perspective on the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 269-296.
  3. Disney, Richard & Whitehouse, Edward, 2001. "Cross-country comparisons of pensioners’ incomes," MPRA Paper 16345, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Edward Whitehouse, 2007. "Pensions Panorama : Retirement-Income Systems in 53 Countries," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7177, December.
  5. John McHale, 2001. "The Risk of Social Security Benefit-Rule Changes: Some International Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 247-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Olivia S. Mitchell, "undated". "New Trends in Pension Benefit and Retirement Provisions," Pension Research Council Working Papers 2000-1, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Queisser, Monika & Whitehouse, Edward, 2005. "Pensions at a glance: public policies across OECD countries," MPRA Paper 10907, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Pablo Antolín & Stéphanie Payet & Edward R. Whitehouse & Juan Yermo, 2011. "The Role of Guarantees in Defined Contribution Pensions," OECD Working Papers on Finance, Insurance and Private Pensions 11, OECD Publishing.
  9. Palacios, Robert, 2002. "Managing public pension reserves Part II : lessons from five recent OECD initiatives," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 33407, The World Bank.
  10. Disney, Richard & Whitehouse, Edward, 1992. "The personal pensions stampede," MPRA Paper 10476, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Palacios, Robert, 2006. "Civil-service pension schemes around the world," MPRA Paper 14796, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
  13. Richard Disney & Edward Whitehouse, 1994. "Choice of private pension plan and pension benefits in the UK," IFS Working Papers W94/02, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  14. Edward R. Whitehouse, 2007. "Life-Expectancy Risk and Pensions: Who Bears the Burden?," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 60, OECD Publishing.
  15. Disney, Richard & Whitehouse, Edward, 1999. "Pension plans and retirement incentives," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 20851, The World Bank.
  16. Ravi Jagannathan & Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 1996. "Why should older people invest less in stock than younger people?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 11-23.
  17. Gordon Keenay & Edward Whitehouse, 2003. "The Role of the Personal Tax System in Old-Age Support: A Survey of 15 Countries," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 24(1), pages 1-21, March.
  18. Richard Disney & Edward Whitehouse, 1994. "What are pension plan entitlements worth in Britain?," IFS Working Papers W94/01, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  19. Thai-Thanh Dang & Pablo Antolín & Howard Oxley, 2001. "Fiscal Implications of Ageing: Projections of Age-Related Spending," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 305, OECD Publishing.
  20. Gordon Keenay & Edward R. Whitehouse, 2003. "Financial Resources and Retirement in Nine OECD Countries: The Role of The Tax System," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 8, OECD Publishing.
  21. Palacios,Robert J. & Pallares-Miralles,Montserrat, 2000. "International patterns of pension provision," Policy Research Working Paper Series 98252, The World Bank.
  22. Bernard Casey & Howard Oxley & Edward R. Whitehouse & Pablo Antolín & Romain Duval & Willi Leibfritz, 2003. "Policies for an Ageing Society: Recent Measures and Areas for Further Reform," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 369, OECD Publishing.
  23. Palacios,Robert J. & Pallares-Miralles,Montserrat, 2000. "International patterns of pension provision," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 98252, The World Bank.
  24. Monika Queisser & Edward R. Whitehouse, 2006. "Neutral or Fair?: Actuarial Concepts and Pension-System Design," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 40, OECD Publishing.
  25. Peter Whiteford, 1995. "The Use of Replacement Rates in International Comparisons of Benefit Systems," Discussion Papers 0054, University of New South Wales, Social Policy Research Centre.
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