2022-12-02 19:09:24

Public versus private old-age pensions in Europe

The modern idea of a lsquo;welfare statersquo; constitutes one of the most important achievements of European political thought. Old-age pensions, in turn, are a crucial feature of a modern welfare state and a modern social market economy. Pensions are the main tool to provide citizens, on a large-scale basis, with acceptable welfare levels at retirement.

In the face of this, demographic trends initiated in the past and now showing major effects are casting serious doubts on the future sustainability of national pension systems as they are organized today. Countries worldwide are dealing with increasing budgetary problems in paying out pensions due to population ageing and, especially in Europe, to a historical tendency towards early retirement. Awareness of this phenomenon has triggered a widespread debate in all Member States of the European Union and throughout the world about reforming national pensions systems. Currently , almost every OECD country and EU Member State is debating the pension problem and undertaking its own reforms.

However, pension system reform is a lsquo;sensitive targetrsquo;, because of the very nature and importance of pensions. There are economic, demographic, social and political aspects that must be considered. Furthermore, from a technical point of view, there is controversy about the empirical magnitude of the pension problem and the underlying economic theory and, consequently, about best practices and policy advice for national governments. It is, therefore, no surprise that the debate on pension reform has grown intensively and now spans a variety of dimensions: from identifying appropriate actuarial formulae for computing benefits at retirement, to the general economic impact of different pension designs, to the more political issues of social consensus and implementation.

What is a pension scheme?

A pension is a contract under which an individual acquires the right to be transferred quotas of future output (the benefits) in exchange for quotas of his current output (the contributions). The contract establishes a point in time—retirement age—when this transfer starts.

In principle, an individual could lsquo;sign a contract with himselfrsquo;; that is, he could store part of his own current production for future use. However, this is not viable for services and non-storable goods, for example health care and services for the elderly, clothing and food; these are precisely the basic kinds of good and services one is interested in after retirement.

In face of this physical constraint on individual actions, modern societies have coordinated individual pension contracts into a pension system, where individuals do not need to consume their own past production during their retirement time, but instead, consume output produced by the individuals working actively during that time. Every modern pension system constitutes essentially a transfer of output, in each period, from the current young generation—meaning here as those actively working—to the current old generation—those who are retired.

Pension systems fall theoretically into two broad categories.

In a pay-as-you-go system (PAYG), the current young generation contributes mandatory to the pension system through labor income taxes, whose revenues are partly transferred to the current old generation as pension benefits. In doing so, the young generation acquires the right to receive pension benefits when they grow old.

In a funded pension system, the members of the current young generation mandatory contribute part of their labor income to a pension fund, which invests in financial assets. When they retire, the fund pays out pension benefits in the form of lifetime annuities, which finance the pensionersrsquo; consumption of goods and services produced by the current young generation.

Demographic change and public pension imbalances

This section discusses the problem of the current fiscal sustainability of public pension systems. A PAYG system is fiscally sustainable, or financially balanced, when in each period, the total nominal contributions—given as the contribution rate times the average wage times the number of workers—equal the total pension expenses—given as the average pension times the number of pensioners.

In OECD countries, public spending for retirement pensions—that is, the right-hand side of the balancing formula—is expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades. Recent projections for the period 2000–2050 show that public age-related expenditures, as a percentage of GDP, may rise on average by about seven points. In particular, the proportion of GDP represented by public spending for retirement pension and early-retirement programmers is projected to increase by almost 10% in Norway, by 8% in Spain and Korea ,by 5% in Germany and by almost 4% in France.

For the European Union, ECOFIN projects an increase of the gross (before taxes) public spending in pensions of 2.3 and 2.2 percentage points of GDP, respectively, for the EU-15 and EU-25. This implies that by 2050, the EU-15 will spend almost 13% of its GDP to finance public pensions, while the EU-25 will spend 12.8%.

The projected increase in longevity, combined with a tendency towards early retirement, is responsible for the expected increase in the expenditure for retirement pensions. At the same time, projected pension contributions are expected to fall because of the decreasing fertility rates. Indeed, lower fertility rates tend to lead to a decrease in the working population and, under reasonable assumptions about productivity, to only a moderate expansion of GDP. As a result, given the current public pension formulae, the system will experience serious fiscal imbalances.

Public versus private pension schemes

This section discusses how increasing






























注:引自Filippo L. Calciano 和Mario Tirelli的《欧洲的观点》2008年第七卷第二章277—286页。



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