IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Protecting the old and promoting growth : a defense of averting the old age crisis


  • James, Estelle


The current social security systems in many OECD countries were adopted before World War II, when private financial markets were underdeveloped or in disrepute. They expanded sharply in the 1950s and 1960s, when real wages and population were growing rapidly. Under those circumstances, it seemed natural to rely on a publicly managed payroll-tax-financed pay-as-you-go (PAYG) system. But in the past 40 years, real wage growth has slowed and population growth has come to a halt in OECD countries, so tax rates must go up sharply if PAYG systems are to be retained. It has become increasingly important to minimize work disincentives and to increase labor productivity through capital accumulation, which the public pillar is not well-suited to do. Shifting partial responsibility to privately managed plans that are funded and that tie benefits to contributions is likely to improve economic growth and provide better benefits than will continued reliance on a payroll-tax-financed PAYG system, concludes the World Bank. The OECD countries can shift gradually to a two-pillar system by reducing and flattening the benefits in their public pillars and using the released resources (plus some additional contributions) to build funded defined contribution accounts in a new mandatory saving pillar. If developing countries follow the path of the OECD countries once followed, they will encounter dramatically escalating contribution rates, great intergenerational transfers, and related problems. Given their rapid rate of demographic aging, it is important for them to establish a multi-pillar system from the start. The author argues that the World Bank position differs from those of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Social Security Association (ISSA) because the Bank is more concerned about how social security systems affect the general economy; is troubled by inequities often found in current systems (in practice, if not on paper); believes that behavioral responses and factors of political economy sometimes make nonviable the design changes the ILO and ISSA recommend for public systems; and values risk diversification. (Financial markets are now both better and more global than before, so multipillar systems benefit from revenue and managerial diversificaiton, including international diversification.)

Suggested Citation

  • James, Estelle, 1996. "Protecting the old and promoting growth : a defense of averting the old age crisis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1570, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1570

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Arza, Camila, 2008. "The Limits of Pension Privatization: Lessons from Argentine Experience," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2696-2712, December.
    2. De Mesa, Alberto Arenas & Bertranou, Fabio, 1997. "Learning from social security reforms: Two different cases, Chile and Argentina," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 329-348, March.
    3. Barrientos, Armando, 1998. "Pension reform, personal pensions and gender differences in pension coverage," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 125-137, January.
    4. Armando Barrientos, 2000. "Work, retirement and vulnerability of older persons in Latin America: what are the lessons for pension design?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(4), pages 495-506.
    5. Selden, Mark & You, Laiyin, 1997. "The reform of social welfare in China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(10), pages 1657-1668, October.
    6. World Bank, 2005. "Household Risk Management and Social Protection in Chile," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14839, April.
    7. Anna Zalewska, 2005. "Home bias and stock market development. The Polish experience," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 05/136, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    8. Antón Pérez, José Ignacio, 2006. "The Reform of the Pension Systems in Easterm Europe and these Impact about the Efficiency and Equity/La reforma de los sistemas de pensiones en Europa del Este y su impacto sobre la eficiencia y la eq," Estudios de Economía Aplicada, Estudios de Economía Aplicada, vol. 24, pages 643(20á)-64, Agosto.
    9. Katharina Müller, 2000. "Pension privatization in Latin America," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(4), pages 507-518.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1570. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.