Table of Contents

International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy

International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy

Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series

Sarah Harper, Kate Hamblin, Jaco Hoffman, Kenneth Howse and George Leeson

The International Handbook on Ageing and Public Policy explores the challenges arising from the ageing of populations across the globe for government, policy makers, the private sector and civil society. It examines various national state approaches to welfare provisions for older people, and highlights alternatives based around the voluntary and third-party sector, families and private initiatives. The Handbook is highly relevant for academics interested in this critical issue, and offers important messages for policy makers and practitioners.

Chapter 8: Global pension systems

Robert Holzmann

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, ageing, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, health policy and economics


The outlook on global pension systems and their reforms since the early 1990s has changed markedly; the most recent reassessment is triggered by the ongoing global financial crisis and its implications for funded and unfunded pensions. After the fall of the Iron Curtain and the move in Central and Eastern Europe from central planning to market economies, the future for pension systems for some experts and policy-makers appeared bright and fairly certain once the initial crisis was overcome: transferring main parts of retirement income provisions from the public sector to the private sector, first, to address fiscal unsustainability and projected further population ageing and, second, to accelerate financial market development, was expected to trigger higher economic growth to co-finance some of the transition costs. This policy vision emerged from various sources: the successful Chilean pension reform and similar reform attempts in Latin America; the seminal 1994 World Bank publication that proposed a multi-pillar pension scheme with a significant shift from publicly managed, unfunded defined-benefit (DB) schemes to privately managed, fully funded defined-contribution (DC) schemes (World Bank, 1994); and general enthusiasm and optimism for more market and financial intermediation instead of public intervention. This policy vision caught on in many countries: between 1988 and 2008, 29 countries introduced systemic reforms involving the establishment of a main funded pension pillar but with variations in design, implementation, and outcome (Figure 8.1).

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