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How much do Latin American pension programs promise to pay back?


  • Forteza, Alvaro
  • Ourens, Guzman


The authors present a new database of social security indicators for eleven Latin American countries designed to assess pension schemes in terms of the payments they promise in return to contributions. Based on this data, authors analyze inequality, insurance and incentives to work, using the replacement rates and the internal rates of return implicit in the flows of contributions and pensions. Results indicate that most programs analyzed are progressive in the sense that, other things equal, they yield higher returns to low than to high income workers. Poor workers, notwithstanding, often have flat age-earnings profiles and lower life expectancy, both of which reduce the rates of return received from social security. The Argentinean and (the pre-2008) Uruguayan programs severely punish short contribution careers, providing strong incentives for workers in the programs to continue contributing until they reach minimums that vary between 30 and 35 years of contributions. The counterpart is that these programs do not hedge workers against the risk of having short working careers; quite the opposite, they raise the uncertainty workers face. The very low rates of return that the Argentinean and Uruguayan main pension programs pay to workers with short working careers are likely to impact strongly on low income workers, as the probability they experience interruptions is higher. The Brazilian, Chilean and Mexican programs show a better balance between insurance against the risk of short working careers and incentives to work. The defined benefit programs of Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay strongly discourage early retirement; the Chilean and Mexican programs are more neutral. Argentina, Chile and Uruguay passed reforms to their main pension programs in 2008. Unlike the Argentinean reform, the Chilean and Uruguayan 2008 reforms strengthened the social protection that programs provide, shifting the balance towards more insurance and less incentives to work.

Suggested Citation

  • Forteza, Alvaro & Ourens, Guzman, 2009. "How much do Latin American pension programs promise to pay back?," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 52447, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:hdnspu:52447

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ann Huff Stevens, 1999. "Climbing out of Poverty, Falling Back in: Measuring the Persistence of Poverty Over Multiple Spells," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(3), pages 557-588.
    2. David Bravo & Jere R. Behrman & Olivia s. Mitchell & Petra E. Todd. & Javiera Vásquez, 2008. "Encuesta de protección social 2006: Presentación general y principales resultados," Working Papers wp273, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Piggott, John & Sane, Renuka, 2009. "Indexing pensions," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 52445, The World Bank.
    2. repec:lap:journl:598 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Holzmann, Robert, 2010. "Bringing Financial Literacy and Education to Low and Middle Income Countries: The Need to Review, Adjust, and Extend Current Wisdom," IZA Discussion Papers 5114, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. James, Estelle, 2009. "Rethinking survivor benefits," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 52919, The World Bank.
    5. Lord, Janet & Posarac, Aleksandra & Nicoli, Marco & Peffley, Karen & Mcclain-Nhlapo, Charlotte & Keogh, Mary, 2010. "Disability and international cooperation and development : a review of policies and practices," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 56092, The World Bank.
    6. Ra, Young-Sun & Shim, Kyung Woo, 2009. "The Korean case study : past experience and new trends in training policies," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 53696, The World Bank.
    7. repec:spr:izalpo:v:6:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1186_s40173-017-0085-1 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Pensions&Retirement Systems; Emerging Markets; Debt Markets; Gender and Law; Labor Markets;

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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