ISR|SRC|Michigan Retirement Research Center|UofM
Mailing List | News | Contact Us
Follow onTwitter
Main photo Promoting research on retirement and Social Security policy

Research Details

UM03-01 - Papers on International Social Insurance Program Reform

Agar Brugiavini and Axel H. Börsch-Supan

Abstract from first paper: Germany still has a very generous public pay-as-you-go pension system. It is characterized by early effective retirement ages and very high effective replacement rates. Most workers receive virtually all of their retirement income from this public retirement insurance. Costs are almost 12% of GDP, more than 2.5 times as much as the U.S. Social Security System. The pressures exerted by population aging on this monolithic system, amplified by negative incentive effects, have induced a reform process that began in 1992 and is still ongoing. This paper has two parts. Part A describes the German pension system as it has shaped the labor market from 1972 until today. Part B describes the reform process, which will convert the exemplary and monolithic Bismarckian public insurance system to a complex multi-pillar system. We provide a survey of the main features of the future German retirement system introduced by the so called “Riester Reform” in 2001 and an assessment in how far this last reform step will solve the pressing problems of the German system of old age provision. Abstract from second paper: A reform process is under way in Italy. Achieving financial sustainability of the social security system has been the first objective characterizing the reforms of 1990s, but these have also introduced rules that aim at a more actuarially fair system. Indeed the social security system prevailing in Italy, financed on a PAYG basis, was, at the end of the 1980s, clearly unsustainable and also extremely unfair to some group of workers, enacting a form of perverse redistribution which is typical of “final salary” defined benefit systems. It was also a system characterized by strong incentives to retire early. In this paper we briefly describe the different regimes of the Italian pension system in its recent history and focus on some aspects of the reform process, taking place during the1990s. Since economists and policy makers are still struggling to assess the results and the long-term effects of these reforms we provide both a survey of this debate and some fresh evidence on the evaluation of the policy changes. We carry out this analysis with a particular emphasis on two aspects that are relevant in the debate. On the one hand we stress the role of economic incentives and the overall fiscal implications of changing the systems as well as these incentives. On the other hand we emphasize the intergenerational considerations and the political implications of the ageing process of the Italian population. From our description it emerges that the overall design of the Italian reform is probably a good one, and yet some more steps need to be taken to speed up some of the positive effects of the reform process that, due the adverse demographic trends affecting PAYGO systems as well as the political arena, could easily evaporate.

Publications (PDF)

Working Paper(s):
The German Public Pension System: How it Was, How it Will Be
The Social Security Reform Process in Italy: Where do We Stand?