Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Pensions panorama: retirement-income systems in 53 countries

Whitehouse, Edward (2007): Pensions panorama: retirement-income systems in 53 countries.

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Reforming pensions is a central policy issue in developed and developing countries alike. However, it is challenging and controversial because it involves long-term planning by governments faced with numerous short-term pressures. Pension reform usually provokes heated ideological debates and, often, street protests.

There are valuable lessons to be learned from other countries’ pension systems and their experiences of retirement-income reforms. However, national pension systems are very complicated and international comparisons are consequently very difficult. Many international analyses get bogged down in institutional, technical, and legal detail, making it impossible to transfer policy lessons between countries. This study combines painstaking, rigorous analysis with clear, easy-to-understand presentation of empirical results.

Pensions Panorama does not advocate any particular kind of pension system or type of pension reform. We hope the analysis in this report can inform debates on retirement-income systems by presenting “hard” data that people with different visions for the future of pensions can all use as a reference point.

International comparisons of retirement-income regimes to date have tended to focus on the question of fiscal and financial sustainability: whether the pension promises made to today’s workers will be affordable in the future. Much less attention has been paid to the future adequacy of pension benefits, to the impact of pension reforms on the distribution of income among older people, and on the means to combat old-age poverty. These issues, which may be termed social sustainability, are a core concern of this study.

The OECD published the report Pensions at a Glance: Public Policies across OECD Countries in 2005. This study extends the analysis to cover 23 countries that are not members of the OECD. These nations lie in three different regions of the world: Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Together, the countries covered in this report account for a quarter of the world’s population and approximately 58 percent of workers around the world who are covered by formal pension systems.

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