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Welfare reform on the Web (April 2006): Pensions - Pensions Overseas

Declining eligibility for social security spouse and widow benefits in the United States?Place all content and images in here

M.H. Meyer, D.A. Wolf and C.L. Himes

Research on Ageing, vol.28, 2006, p.240-260

Eligibility for the state pension in the US (social security) is based either on contributions from earnings or on marital status. Most older women currently receive non-contributory Social Security spouse or widows’ benefits, because these are bigger than the benefits they would have received on the basis of their work records. For nearly two thirds of older women, marital status is more important than employment status in shaping old age financial security. However, marriage rates are falling, particularly among African Americans. Research reported in this article shows that when women born in the 1960s reach retirement age, 82% of Whites, 85% of Hispanics and only 50% of Blacks will be eligible for spouse or widows’ benefits.


European Industrial Relations Review, issue 386, 2006, p.28-29

In Belgium, many workers are taking early retirement while there is high unemployment among young people. This is putting strain on the country’s social security system. The national government has recently negotiated an agreement on labour market participation with the social partners in an effort to ensure the sustainability of the pension system. The agreement contains measures to encourage older people to work longer while increasing job opportunities for young people.

H. Fehr and C. Habermann

Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, vol.5, 2006, p.69-90

The former conservative government in Germany introduced a so-called “demographic factor” reform of the pension system that was supposed to reduce future benefits in accordance with the increase in future life expectancy. This reform was suspended soon after the government changed in 1998 and was replaced in 2001 by a new scheme which reduces future benefit levels independent of demographic trends. In 2004 the government introduced the so-called “sustainability factor” reforms which reduce future benefits in accordance with the increase in the ratio of retirees to workers. Paper compares the economic effects of these conflicting pension reform options.

G. de Menil, F. Murtin and E. Sheshinski

Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, vol.5, 2006, p.1-25

Study examines the determinants of the optimal balance between social security taxation and private saving in the provision of retirement income. It takes a normative view, and considers the influence on desirable steady-state tax rates and savings rates of the long-term rate of return of capital, the long-term rate of return of the pay-as-you-go system, and their variances and covariances. A few general, qualitative results are derived from a simple overlapping generations model, with general functional forms for utility and the probability distributions of earnings and the return to capital. The model is applied to empirical estimates of the trends and variabilities of labour earnings and the total return to lifetime savings in the US, the UK, France and Japan. Large differences were found across these countries in the return of the pay-as-you-go system, the return on lifetime savings and their variances and covariances. This differences led to different computations of optimal steady-state tax and savings rates across countries.

T. Krieger

Cheltenham: Elgar, 2005

The aging of societies is one of the greatest challenges to industrialized countries. In an aging society, more resources are needed to meet pension claims or to cover the increasing costs for health services. The book investigates the claim that immigration is a potential solution to population ageing. The author also looks at voters’ behaviour as voting decisions can influence eventual immigration levels.

R.L. Clark and others

Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, vol.5, 2006, p.45-67

Increasingly, individuals are being required to take more responsibility for their own retirement saving. However, optimal decision-making requires knowledge of financial mathematics, risk and return properties of investments, and expectations concerning wage growth and tax policy. This paper explores the response of individuals to financial education seminars. The results indicate that financial education can make a significant difference to how individuals think and plan for retirement.

L. Osberg

Canadian Public Policy, vol.31, 2005, p.413-420

This paper argues that the well-being of all Canadians would be increased by policies that make it easier for individuals to spread out the time and effort expended on paid work more evenly over the life cycle. This would involve a less hectic middle age balanced by continued employment for older Canadians. However, if a longer period of paid employment is to represent an improvement in individual well-being, it must be undertaken out of choice, not necessity. A growing number of Canadian workers are at risk of reaching retirement age without substantial assets or a private pension due to high unemployment rates in the 1980s and 1990s, the shift to self-employment, and steadily lowered protection from unemployment insurance. This means they will be forced to work on after 65 to make ends meet. Article calls for reforms to the Employment Insurance system to improve income security for current workers.

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