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Assessing the sustainability of pension reforms in Europe

  • Grech, Aaron George

Spurred by the ageing transition, many governments have made wide-ranging reforms, dramatically changing Europe's pensions landscape. Nevertheless there remain concerns about future costs, while unease about adequacy is growing. This study develops a comprehensive framework to assess pension system sustainability. It captures the effects of reforms on the ability of systems to alleviate poverty and maintain living standards, while setting out how reforms change future costs and relative entitlements for different generations. This framework differs from others, which just look at generosity at the point of retirement, as it uses pension wealth - the value of all transfers during retirement. This captures the impact of both longevity and changes in the value of pensions during retirement. Moreover, rather than focusing only on average earners with full careers, this framework examines individuals at different wage levels, taking account of actual labour market participation. The countries analysed cover 70% of the EU’s population and include examples of all system types. Our estimates indicate that while reforms have decreased generosity significantly, in most, but not all, countries the poverty alleviation function remains strong, particularly where minimum pensions have improved. However, moves to link benefits to contributions have made some systems less progressive, raising adequacy concerns for women and those on low incomes. The consumption smoothing function of state pensions has declined noticeably, suggesting the need for longer working lives or additional private saving for individuals to maintain pre-reform living standards. Despite the reforms, the size of entitlements of future generations should remain similar to that of current generations, in most cases, as the effect of lower annual benefits should be offset by longer retirement. Though reforms have helped address the financial challenge faced by pension systems, in many countries pressures remain strong and further reforms are likely.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 27407.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:27407
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  1. Ondrej Schneider, 2009. "Reforming Pensions in Europe: Economic Fundamentals and Political Factors," CESifo Working Paper Series 2572, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Disney, Richard, 2000. "Crises in Public Pension Programmes in OECD: What Are the Reform Options?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(461), pages F1-23, February.
  3. Michael Fuchs & Aaron George Grech & Asghar Zaidi, 2006. "Pension Policy in EU25 and its Possible Impact on Elderly Poverty," CASE Papers case116, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  4. Libor Dušek & Juraj Kopecsni, 2008. "Policy Risk in Action: Pension Reforms and Social Security Wealth in Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 58(07-08), pages 329-357, Oktober.
  5. Michael F. Förster & Marco Mira d'Ercole, 2005. "Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries in the Second Half of the 1990s," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 22, OECD Publishing.
  6. Grech, Aaron George, 2007. "Pension policy in EU25 and its impact on pension benefits," MPRA Paper 33669, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Bottazzi, Renata & Jappelli, Tullio & Padula, Mario, 2006. "Retirement expectations, pension reforms, and their impact on private wealth accumulation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(12), pages 2187-2212, December.
  8. John P. Martin & Edward R. Whitehouse, 2008. "Reforming Retirement-Income Systems: Lessons from the Recent Experiences of OECD Countries," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 66, OECD Publishing.
  9. Nicholas Barr & Peter Diamond, 2006. "The Economics of Pensions," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(1), pages 15-39, Spring.
  10. Grech, Aaron George, 2012. "Evaluating the possible impact of pension reforms on future living standards in Europe," MPRA Paper 39851, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Edward Whitehouse, 2007. "Pensions Panorama : Retirement-Income Systems in 53 Countries," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7177.
  12. Eckardt, Martina, 2003. "The Open Method of Co-ordination on Pensions - An Economic Analysis of its Effects on Pension Reforms," Thuenen-Series of Applied Economic Theory 39, University of Rostock, Institute of Economics.
  13. Feldstein, Martin S, 1974. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 905-26, Sept./Oct.
  14. Barr, Nicholas & Diamond, Peter, 2008. "Reforming Pensions: Principles and Policy Choices," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195311303.
  15. Georges Menahem, 2007. "The decommodified security ratio:A tool for assessing European social protection systems," Post-Print halshs-00198398, HAL.
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