Lessons for an Aging Society: The Political Sustainability of Social Security Systems

52 Pages Posted: 4 May 2004

See all articles by Vincenzo Galasso

Vincenzo Galasso

University of Lugano; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Paola Profeta

Bocconi University - Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Abstract

What is the future of social security systems in OECD countries? We suggest that the answer belongs to the realm of politics, and evaluate how political constraints and aging shape the social security system. The increasing ratio of retirees to workers lowers the rate of returns of unfunded pay-as-you-go social security, and induces citizens to prefer smaller such systems and a larger role for private savings. An aging electorate, however, increases the relevance of pension spending on the agenda of office-seeking policy-makers and tends to increase the size of unfunded pension systems. Calibrating the strength of these effects for France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US, we find that the latter political aspect always outweighs the former. The relative size of the effects depends on country-specific characteristics and modelling details: when labour market distortions are accounted for the political effect still dominates but becomes less sizeable; the different redistributive character of pension systems and the strength of family ties also play a role in determining politico-economic outcomes. A higher effective retirement age always decreases the size of the system chosen by the voters, often increases its generosity, and may be the only viable solution to pension system problems in the face of population aging.

Suggested Citation

Galasso, Vincenzo and Profeta, Paola, Lessons for an Aging Society: The Political Sustainability of Social Security Systems. Economic Policy, Vol. 19, No. 38, pp. 63-115, April 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=522014

Vincenzo Galasso (Contact Author)

University of Lugano ( email )

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano, 6900
Switzerland

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Paola Profeta

Bocconi University - Department of Policy Analysis and Public Management ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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