Pension Atlas Expanded to 28 Countries from Three Continents
Pension insurance and its sustainable financing are regularly a bone of contention in politics. But how do other countries actually organise their citizens' pensions? And what can be learned by looking at the bigger picture? The Pension Atlas of the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, which has now been expanded to include 28 countries, provides an easy-to-understand overview of different pension systems and makes it possible to compare them with one another. It comprises 25 European countries as well as China, Brazil and Russia.
Clearly arranged graphics, the Pension Maps show how old age security is organised in a country, which security functions the various parts of the system have, which population groups are covered by the pension system, who has access to a supplementary pension and how high the average pension level is in a given country compared with the average in the European Union (EU) and the OECD. All Pension Maps and accompanying information that were prepared by the Institute's Social Law Department in collaboration with experts from across Europe are available open access on the Institute's website.
The design of the pension branches makes the difference
Large differences in old age provision arise primarily from the way in which state, occupational and private pensions are arranged and the weight given to these branches of provision: For example, in Nordic countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, which are often regarded as model countries because of their universal coverage, the state pension provides a below-average level of protection compared with the rest of the EU, which is mainly increased, in some cases significantly, by a – usually mandatory – occupational pension scheme.
In contrast, the Southern European countries of Spain, Italy and Portugal provide for their populations through state pension insurance systems in the first place. The relatively high wage replacement rates of over 80% (Germany: 51.9%, EU: 55.5%) come at the price of equally high contribution rates, which are far higher than Germany's current rate of 18.6%. In Spain, the pension insurance contribution is 28.3%, in Italy as much as 33%, with employers paying significantly more than employees in both countries, while in Germany financing is on a parity basis at 8.3% each.
Unlike Western European countries in particular, which can generally rely on structures that have evolved over decades, the development of a state pension insurance system in China is still in its infancy. For the rural population, regulations on old age provision have so far only been implemented regionally.
Mixed success of private pension programs as part of the standard provision
However, it is not only differences between countries with different welfare systems that can be identified, but also variations within a country region with a similar political background. In Eastern Europe, several countries followed the World Bank's call in the 1990s to design part of their old age provision through funded private programs, while others relied much more on the statutory pension insurance. For some, the path of private insurance as part of the standard provision has proved less successful in achieving adequate pension levels in old age. In the case of Estonia and Poland, the model can even be regarded as having largely failed, since both countries are currently reforming their systems with the aim to reintegrate the private pension component in whole or in part to the state pension insurance.
In order to ensure the comparability of the different pension systems, each with its own institutional and historical background, a system of categories was developed for their visualisation, consisting of legal form, function, right to access, form of affiliation (mandatory or voluntary), means testing, as well as modes and sources of financing. It is also based on the assumption of a person entering working life in 2020 and thus serving as a contributor to the old age security system. For each Pension Map, there is a brief summary of the main institutional features, funding mechanisms, eligibility requirements and benefits.
All information on the project can be found on our >> website.
Publication: Schneider S. M., Petrova T., Becker U. (eds.), Pension Maps: Visualising the Institutional Structure of Old Age Security in Europe and Beyond, 2nd ed., Munich: MPISOC, 2021.
For questions or interview requests, please contact Dr. Julia K. Hagn, Press and Public Relations, phone: 089/38602428, email: hagn (at) mpisoc.mpg.de