Handbook of Aging and the Social Sciences, Seventh Edition

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It should be noted that the willingness of citizens to pay taxes still varies widely among nation-states. Tax and contribution levels that are accepted, e.

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The on how these challenges should be interpreted, Anglo-Saxon countries follow the opposite route: They what impetus for reform they should provide, and, offer generous tax breaks to the finance industry and most of all, what the reforms should be see the to employers as an incentive to provide private old-age next section. First on the list is population aging. This has been one of the outcomes see Blackburn, ; Hacker, As great achievements of modern societies, but it comes a result, welfare state benefit levels also vary.

Welfare at a price: of working longer, increasing pension con- institutions may be conceived as filters that modify the tributions, or decreasing benefits. Barring the advent impact of transnationalization in nation-specific or of a major natural disaster or man-made destruc- regime-specific ways Blossfeld et al. The Post-Fordist mode implies a rise Demographic Transition has meant that younger of discontinuous careers with more flexibility and cohorts of workers are getting smaller. There are ten- insecurity, and, more generally, a destandardization tative arguments about a possible fertility increase in of life course patterns.

Some Mayer, The male breadwinner model gives way quantitative easing of population aging can come to female career employment, and family models shift and has come from immigration, but for most towards delayed and partial marriage, high divorce European countries the numbers that would be rates, low fertility, and, consequently, pluralized family required for keeping the ratio of workers to pension- forms. There are obviously other causal factors beyond ers constant are clearly above what is politically feasi- transnationalization at play here, but the changes ble United Nations Population Division, Other observers see a shift to pensioners.

Changes in employment rates, citizens by providing them with the skills and moti- productivity per worker, and age of transition from vation for employment; in other words, by increas- work to retirement will thus modulate the effect of ing their marketability Jessop, ; Vis, In a broader conceptualization linking social and The second key challenge is economic transnation- economic policy, this has been termed the model alization and similar macro-economic changes.

Pensions have a peculiar place in this concept as Early exit is also at odds with the emphasis on activa- they are the one policy area where a productivist tion that has become a key feature of European social emphasis seems inappropriate and income protection policy. While raising the retirement age limit beyond remains paramount. Even here, however, activation the traditional threshold of 65 remains highly conten- is now being promoted, in terms of remaining in the tious, raising the labor force participation below this work force as long as possible, of remaining produc- threshold is now a broadly consensual goal, as stated, tive in other fields such as volunteering or family care, for example, in the Lisbon and Stockholm and of becoming an independent entrepreneur, if not agendas of the EU.

The EU has no mandate for pension reform or The pension literature has so far not given much any other social policy , but has ventured into this attention to these issues. It has until recently stressed area indirectly through addressing the competitive- continuity, by predicting that pensions would ness of European economies. The goal set in for the year , to be achieved As we shall now see, these predictions have been by all member states, was an employment rate of at overturned by the dynamics of pension reform.

But, as Table Most countries changed amounted to a policy reversal. The critical tion of benefits under earnings-related systems. In vir- issue that has generated conflict here is to what extent tually all cases, personal pensions were created, either employment at this age is a free decision by the worker, by privatizing parts of the existing system, by setting and to what extent it is constrained by labor market new mandatory layers, or by establishing incentives conditions or health reasons. To the extent that eld- such as tax deductions for voluntary individual sav- erly workers have become unfit for work or unable ings.

Most countries reformed pensions incrementally, to find employment, a rising retirement age in pen- in a step-by-step process that introduced significant sion schemes backed up by actuarially fair deductions innovation but maintained the main architecture of for earlier exit will entail for them a drop in pension existing systems.

Such parametric adjustments allowed income beyond their own choice also see Chapter In a number of cases, however, reform was more structural, reshaping Expanding Private Pension the original structure of pension policy, like in Central Provision and Eastern European countries.

An illustrative over- view of the changes is given in Table One other key area of reform has been the reconfigu- ration of the public—private mix in pension provision. In the Italian case, tradition- and in countries where it had already played a sig- ally characterized as a public pension monopoly, nificant role the Netherlands and Anglo-Saxon, and economic incentives were introduced to enhance the Scandinavian countries. By the end of layers were created on top of the existing public pen- , private pension funds had accumulated assets of sion schemes as well as on top of the occupational over 61 billion euros, or 3.

In the Anglo-Saxon countries, where the state other countries in the Bismarckian family as well. In Ireland no public earnings-related pension the development of private pensions, with the exists, and in the United Kingdom the public earnings- number of Riester contracts reaching over 11 million related pension scheme SERPS , finally implemented by March Germany, In France, another typically single-pillar pub- structure of British pension policy.

By December , a funded occupational arrangements in the direction of the multi-pillar pension scheme financed through voluntary con- model Bonoli, This pension architecture is tributions by workers and employers PERCO had characterized by a number of pillars and layers that accumulated assets for 3 billion euro. Each in European Commission, Significant design variation exists among ers in Although some schemes kept DB entitle- countries. In some cases, collective agreements pro- ments, the change has been significant.

Additional savings are often promoted national NDC systems, the value of pensions depends through tax-deductible voluntary contributions to on the amount of contributions paid as well as on life individual pension accounts in a third pillar. A stronger link between contributions and In previously single-pillar schemes, like most benefits makes individual work histories matter more Continental European ones, the development of for future benefit levels Arza, Periods out- occupational and private pensions has added new side the labor market, in unemployment or atypical pillars.

This has changed the structure of provi- work with no protection, will reduce benefits unless sion to a more complex interaction between state, the scheme includes a special credit for them as is occupational, and private pensions, similar to the the case, e. All these countries have recently adopted or reinforced DC sys- Contributions tems either in public or private pension layers, or in This reconfiguration has also usually included a shift both.

NDC schemes are actuarially fair tighten the link between working lives and ben- systems that do not accumulate funds thus avoid- efit levels can generate new gaps in old-age income ing transition costs and risks of mismanagement and protection. Some see NDC systems ages where the parts depend on and complement as representing the current wave of reforms.

Moreover, each other, and that cross-country differences in these they may turn out to be the point of convergence of the packages align themselves into a limited number of still-diverse systems of today. Regimes reflect the have tended to replace existing DB arrangements as allocation of welfare roles among the state, the fam- has been the case in the US. In the UK, employers ily, and the market, and the underlying principles were allowed to convert their DB plans into DC in that have guided policy choices.

Once established, , and many did in the years that followed.

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A similar ers had joined a private DC pension. This way of have put this idea to the test. If similar socioeconomic thinking had good reasons going for it. These interest-group networks produced lock-in Whether and how institutional structures influence the effects that reinforced the status quo.

Or, in contrast, do reform processes follow simi- sions are hugely popular — in fact the most popular lar trajectories and thus wipe out the differences across part of the welfare state. This may reflect a percep- regimes?


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Such convergence could take several forms: tion that there is no moral hazard involved. A large majority of respondents across all age pensions , or they may follow the same new trajectory groups and countries usually opt for maintaining or such as towards NDC schemes.

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In recent it. Raising the retirement age is almost unanimously practice, there has been a bit of both: reforms have opposed. In other words, European countries have substantially modified the welfare architecture of pre- developed a very successful and popular social secu- vious systems but differences among states persist.

Similar instruments and strategies were adopted in Some generations saw these welfare rights expand the service of similar goals across countries but policy- over the course of their lives and participated in the making encountered less resistance if it built on exist- political processes promoting this transformation. Social security has thus influenced the economic A common trajectory towards a multi-pillar archi- choices of workers and their families and their expec- tecture and an expansion of private DC pensions can tations on benefit rights from the state, the employ- be observed.

However, shared chal- The early literature on the expansion of old-age lenges and similar reform strategies have interacted security offered the demographic growth of the eld- with institutional structures and political processes, erly population as a key explanation for this expan- which vary across countries.

As a result, there are still sion: growing elderly populations create both a need significant differences that tend to follow the con- for welfare spending and a political constituency to ventional regime boundaries.

Handbook of the Biology of Aging, 7th Edition

To what extent this will fight for it Wilensky, The assumption is that reform will be feasible if, and only if, the median voter favors it. Pension reforms welfare states has created conditions that militate for involving cutbacks have broadly occurred, in spite of their own continuity. Existing institutions are resist- the growing number of elderly voters.

The gray power ant to change, both in terms of general inertia and thesis is also not a satisfactory explanation of the of the specific welfare regimes path dependency.

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The failure of the gray parametric reforms, whose outcomes can more eas- power thesis is partly due to its erroneously mechani- ily be calculated Overbye, Elderly voters do not The second option is to use long phasing-in peri- only vote in their own narrow self-interest Goerres, ods for reforms to be implemented. This can reduce They are also interested in the well-being of the opposition of workers close to retirement who their descendants and are net contributors in the are typically more concerned with pension issues and intergenerational exchange with them Kohli, It can But while the gray power thesis is not borne out also have a divisive effect on potential opponents as by the evidence, the broader popular dislike of all not everyone is affected in the same way.

In Western forms of pension retrenchment is amply documented.

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Europe the phasing-in periods set by recent reforms The argument that pensions are difficult, if not impos- have been particularly long. The full implementation sible, to scale back politically remains reasonable. There are also attempts at identify- and Long phasing-in periods are also necessary ing the social-structural changes that underpin the to give individuals and families the time to adapt their making of new political coalitions in a post-industrial life plans and choices to the new institutional context. Other However, they are not without costs.

They obviously explanations emphasize the political strategies and the delay the onset of the budgetary easing that they are ideas that facilitate retrenchment. Moreover, they may raise doubts among the population on the likelihood that costly reforms will be effectively implemented in the future, so that adap- Political Strategies to Pass tation is stifled. They also pass the political costs of really applying controversial legislation on to the fol- Unpopular Reforms lowing governments, who may be tempted to renege The shift from welfare state expansion to retrench- on them. It is hard to convince the vot- quickly than the phased-in increase in retirement age.

The Schroeder government introducing cutbacks or reducing generosity for one in Germany tried it but failed resoundingly because occupational group and not for others. Obviously, los- it was unable to frame the cutbacks as inevitable. Instead of direct cutbacks, a further it with the opposition, or redirect it altogether the key strategy of reform throughout Europe has been to EU is often a handy scapegoat for this. People are sion because, in principle, people can choose whether more likely to accept pension cuts if they are not to take them or not.

In practice but less visible , reform really visible or if they do not affect them directly. Such strategies are typical of structural paying the fiscal costs for financing the incentives taken reforms, helped by the fact that even experts may by others e. Thus, paradoxically, path-breaking reforms may building the idea that cutbacks were necessary and meet with less political resistance than incremental unavoidable Cox, As Vivian A.

We follow this usage here because it has could succeed in the medium term if it did not also become the standard terminological currency. But the translation convincing ideas. As another example, reforms involv- of these challenges into specific institutional reform ing a stronger link between contributions and ben- schemes owes much to the framing efforts of actors efits may be more appealing than bare retrenchment such as the World Bank and the OECD and, more gen- because they have a claim on equity and fairness.

In a erally, of the epistemic community of economics and process of retrenchment that necessarily entails a dis- finance with its basic conviction that markets perform tribution of losses, an effective political strategy is to better than governments. The international diffusion of policy challenges of demography and economic openness, models may also partly be attributed to the diffusion with expenditure growth prospects having been con- of guiding ideas.

A key question here is whether dif- tained. Uncertainties loom large; those that propagate the ideas Simmons et al. Retirement ages have been raised OECD fall into this second category Orenstein, ; in spite of broad opposition, but usually with long their power, while limited in Western Europe, has been phasing-in periods.

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Many countries still lag behind, considerable in Eastern Europe, where it was coupled e. One recent example is the itself. Existing institutions can lose their legitimacy Greek financial crisis of This idea has been retire earlier. On the other hand, the reforms already sponsored by many powerful actors and has gained implemented in many countries have decreased future wide currency even though, as Barr , among benefit levels to a point where adequate income pro- others, has shown, it is economically mistaken.

Both tection for all pensioners will not be given any more. It remains to be seen whether such efforts at myth debunking will The — international financial crisis has shat- succeed in reversing the flow of ideas. As layers that each country has. Workers in countries pension reforms have strengthened the link between that rely heavily on private or occupational DC sys- contribution history and benefits, the impact of work- tems, where each individual saves for retirement in a ing careers on future entitlements has become more personal pension account and the value of the bene- salient.

Future pensions will need to be adjusted to a fit depends in large part on investment performance, context in which the life-long protected worker of the have suffered most. The worst affected have been Fordist period is no longer predominant, which may workers close to retirement, who will have no time to lead to gaps in contributions and be another factor compensate current losses with better performance in that increases the likelihood of old-age poverty.

The crisis may also affect public pensions indirectly, through its impacts on employment and economic growth, two factors that are critical for Pensions in the Political Economy resources and benefit levels; but here the losses are The key theme of all this is that pensions cannot be likely to be much smaller.