In developed countries, pensions systems emerged as a political response to socioeconomic changes brought about by industrialization and urbanization in the late 19th and early 20th centruries. Today, new socioeconomic changes create both rationales and political forces for revisions of existing pensions systems. Changes in demography, real wage growth and real interest rates are perhaps the most obvious examples. Increased instability of the family, more heterogeneity among individuals, greater internationel mobility of labor and capital, and amibitions to ecourage individual responsibility also have important implications for pensions systems.
When discussing these issues, it is useful to set up a more elaborate classification of pension systems than the usual distinction between defined-benefit (DB) and defined-contribution (DV) systems. The choice of an appropriate taxonomy depends, of course, on the issues to be raised. One question that is focused on in this paper concerns the consequences of socioeconomic shocks on the distribution of income and the sharing of income risk among generations. it turns out that the distinction between pensions systems with exogenous and endogenous contribution rates (tax rates) then becomes crucial. Bu the paper also deals with socioeconomic changes that are induced by the pension system itself via behavioral adjustments of individuals - and the feedback of these changes on the pension system. When dealing with such adjustments, highly relevant features of pension systems are the degree to which they are actuarial and funded, respectively - two aspects that are related but not the identical.
Six generic pension systems are classified in Section I, highlighting the distinctions mentioned above. The contribution rate is exogenous in two of these systems, while it is endogenous in the other four systems. Each of the six pension systems can ba varied considerably, both by incorporating elements from other systems and by introducing restricitions on contributions or benefits. Section II turns to the consequences of socioeconomic changes for the distribution of income and macroeconomic balance, while sections III and IV examine alternative pension reforms aimed at mitigating some of these consequences. A few of these reforms are "marginal" in the sense that certain rules of a pension system are modified, including both ad hoc policy measures and the introduction of various automatic adjustment mechanisms. Other reforms are "radical" since they imply shift to different types of pensions sytems. Section V concludes.
As always when designing social insurance systems, it is necessary to strika balance between conflicting considerations, such as distribution, risk sharing and incentives. But it is also important to be concerned with the balance between paternalism and individual freedom of choice (and hence individual responsibility). This also raises the more general question of the appropriate role of government in society as a whole, including the control of capital markets and government intervention in the management of firms.
Stockholm: IIES , 2000. , 34 p.