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Pension reform in Latin America : quick fixes or sustainable reform?

Listed author(s):
  • Aiyer, Sri-Ram
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    Because of better health and higher standards of living, people are living longer. By 2030, more than 16 percent of the world's population will be older than 60, compared with 9 percent today. As a result, pension systems will need reform. Most current systems have substantial unfunded liabilities that will impose significant financial burdens onfuture generations without providing adequate protection for older individuals and lower-income workers. Pension reform is inevitable because of demographic imperatives and because many pension systems are financially unsustainable. Unfunded public pension systems pose political risk if promises to future retirees cannot be met. Pension reform is both technically and politically complex but more and more countries are beginning to address the problem. The question is whether to adopt quick fixes or sustainable changes that will benefit the macroeconomy and protect elderly and lower-income citizens. Quick fixes--typical in many economies--generally involve changes in eligibility (such as retirement age), changes in the rate of contribution or the population of workers on which contributions are calculated, or changes in the structure of benefits. Countries in Latin America have been ahead of other regions in undertaking major reform from pay-as-you-go defined-benefit pension plans to fully funded, defined-contribution pension plans. Because of the successful Chilean pension model, a notable number of Latin American countries have undertaken deep pension reform. The author highlights reform efforts in a sample of countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. Vigilance is still needed, says the author. Effective oversight is essential, and so is complementary reform in the banking, insurance, and securities markets. In capital markets, for example, regulation must be strengthened and the requirement that pension fund investments be made only in government-related securities must be eliminated. New types of insurance must be made available and there must be increased competition among insurance providers. More work must be done but the region's pension systems have started on the right course.

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    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1865.

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    Date of creation: 31 Dec 1997
    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1865
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    1. Shah, Hemant, 1997. "Toward better regulation of private pension funds," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1791, The World Bank.
    2. Schwarz, Anita M. & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli, 1999. "Taking stock of pension reforms around the world," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 20533, The World Bank.
    3. Vittas, Dimitri, 1997. "The Argentine pension reform and its relevance for Eastern Europe," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1819, The World Bank.
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