OECD Pensions at a Glance

1999-1363 (online)
1995-4026 (print)
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OECD’s biennial report on pension systems across OECD countries. Each edition opens with an overview comparing pension policies of OECD countries and the role of reforms and private pensions. This is followed by a series of country reports analyzing the situation in each OECD country.

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Pensions at a Glance 2013

Pensions at a Glance 2013

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26 Nov 2013
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This comprehensive examination of pension systems in OECD and selected non-OECD countries looks at recent trends in retirement and working at older ages, evolving life expectancy, design of pension systems, pension entitlements, and private pensions before providing a series of detailed country profiles.

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  • Foreword

    This fifth edition of Pensions at a Glance provides a range of indicators for comparing pension policies and their outcomes between OECD countries. The indicators are also, where possible, provided for the other major economies that are members of the G20. Two special chapters () provide deeper analysis of recent pension reforms and their impact and of the role of housing, financial wealth and public service for retirement income adequacy.

  • Editorial – Pensions under stress

    In OECD countries, the pension landscape has been changing at an astonishing pace over the past few years. After decades of debate and, in some cases, political standstill, many countries have launched significant pension reforms, including higher retirement ages, changes in the way entitlements are calculated and other measures to introduce savings in their pension systems.

  • Executive summary

    This edition of Pensions at a Glance examines the distributional impact of recent pension reforms and analyses how housing, financial wealth and publicly provided services may affect living standards in old age. It also contains a comprehensive selection of pensions policy indicators, covering: the design of pension systems; future pension entitlements for men and women at different earnings levels; finances of retirement-income systems as a whole; the demographic and economic context in which retirement-income systems operate; private pensions and public-pension reserve funds. The publication also includes profiles of the pension systems for all OECD and G20 countries.

  • Recent pension reforms and their distributional impact

    This chapter first sets out the most important elements of pension reform in the 34 OECD member countries between January 2009 and September 2013. It thus updates and continues the analysis in the 2009 edition of Pensions at a Glance which examined pension reforms from 2004 to the end of 2008. The second part of the chapter examines the distributional impact of pension reforms over the last 20 years, looking only at those countries which have undertaken reforms that go beyond solely raising the retirement age.

  • The role of housing, financial wealth and public services for adequate living standards in old age

    examines adequacy of retirement incomes from a wider perspective than pension entitlements of current and future retirees. As living standards in retirement are also influenced by a range of other factors, the analysis looks at the role that housing wealth, financial wealth, and the value of publicly-provided services play on the adequacy of elderly people’s incomes.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Design of pension systems

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    • Architecture of national pension systems

      Retirement-income systems are diverse and often involve a number of different programmes. Classifying pension systems and different retirement-income schemes is consequently difficult. The taxonomy of pensions used here consists of two mandatory tiers: a redistributive part and a savings part. Voluntary provision, be it individual or employer-provided, makes up a third tier.

    • Basic, targeted and minimum pensions

      Programmes designed to ensure adequacy of old-age incomes make up the first tier of the OECD’s taxonomy of pension systems.

    • Earnings-related pensions

      The second tier of the OECD’s taxonomy of retirement-income provision comprises earnings-related pensions. Key parameters and rules of these schemes determine the value of entitlements, including the long-term effect of pension reforms that have already been legislated.

    • Normal, early and late retirement

      The rules for eligibility to retire and draw a pension are very complex, often reflecting conflicting government objectives. On the one hand, encouraging people to work longer as the population ages has been a major feature of many pension reforms. On the other hand, government have often been concerned to protect workers perceived as vulnerable and unable to continue their jobs to an older age.

    • Effective age of labour market exit

      The average effective age of labour market exit was 64.2 for men and 63.1 for women across OECD countries in 2012. The effective age of labour market exit is lower than the official retirement age in 22 OECD countries for both men and women. For 2012 the lowest effective exit age is found for men in Luxembourg and for women in Belgium and the Slovak Republic at 57.6 and 58.7 years respectively. The highest figures for men are found in Mexico, at 72.3 years, with the highest for women in Chile, at 70.4 years.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Pension entitlements

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    • Methodology and assumptions

      The indicators of pension entitlements that follow here in and the analysis of pension savings gaps in use the OECD pension models. The methodology and assumptions are common to the analysis of all countries, allowing the design of pension systems to be compared directly. Future entitlements under today’s parameter and rules.

    • Gross pension replacement rates

      The gross replacement rate shows the level of pensions in retirement relative to earnings when working. For workers with average earnings, the gross replacement rate averages 54% in the 34 OECD countries. But there is significant cross-country variation. At the bottom of the range, Mexico and the United Kingdom offer future replacement rates of less than a third to people starting work today. The Netherlands at the top of the range, offer replacement rates of more than 90%. Other countries with high projected replacement rates are Denmark at 79% and Austria at 77%.

    • Gross pension replacement rates: Public and private schemes

      Private pensions play a large and growing role in providing incomes for old age. This is illustrated with calculations of gross pension replacement rates which distinguish the contributions of public and private sectors. The OECD average for replacement rates of an average earner from public schemes alone is 41%, compared with 54% with mandatory private pensions included. When voluntary private pensions, under typical rules, are added, the average replacement rate is 68% for an average earner.

    • Tax treatment of pensions and pensioners

      The personal tax system plays an important role in old-age support. Pensioners often do not pay social security contributions. Personal income taxes are progressive and pension entitlements are usually lower than earnings before retirement, so the average tax rate on pension income is typically less than the tax rate on earned income. In addition, most income tax systems give preferential treatment either to pension incomes or to pensioners, by giving additional allowances or credits to older people.

    • Net pension replacement rates

      For average earners, the net replacement rate across the OECD averages 66%, which is 11 percentage points higher than the gross replacement rate. This reflects the higher taxes and contributions that people paid on their earnings when working than they pay on their pensions in retirement. Net replacement rates again vary across a large range, from under a third in Mexico to over 100% in the Netherlands for average earners.

    • Net pension replacement rates: Public and private schemes

      The OECD average for net replacement rates of an average earner from public schemes alone is 49%, compared with 64% with mandatory private pensions included. When voluntary private pensions, under typical rules, are added, the average net replacement rate is 79% for an average earner.

    • Investment risk and private pensions

      Although private pension funds in OECD countries have, on average, now recovered all of the pre-crisis losses the markets are still volatile and negative growth is still not uncommon. However, it is important to bear in mind that private pensions are only a part of the overall retirement-income package: a major part of retirement income is generally not affected by investment risk. In some countries, means-tested pensions protect low-income workers from much investment risk and the tax system can also acts as an automatic stabiliser of retirement incomes.

    • Gross pension wealth

      Pension wealth measures the total value of the lifetime flow of retirement incomes. For average earners, pension wealth for men is 9.3 times annual earnings on average in OECD countries. The figure is higher for women – 10.6 times individual earnings – because of their longer life expectancy.

    • Net pension wealth

      Net pension wealth, like the equivalent indicator in gross terms, shows the present value of the lifetime flow of pension benefits. But it also takes account of taxes and contribution paid on retirement incomes. Both figures for pension wealth are expressed as a multiple of individual gross earnings.

    • Changes in pension wealth

      The change in gross pension shows the level of the pension promise from remaining in employment for an additional year. In half of the OECD countries lower or average earners have a lower incentive to remain in work than higher earners. In contrast there are only eight OECD countries where it is more advantageous for low or middle earners to stay in employment.

    • Progressivity of pension benefit formulae

      The progressivity index is designed to summarise the relationship between pension in retirement and earnings when working in a single number. The results show variation from 100 in pure basic schemes (such as Ireland and New Zealand), through zero in Hungary to a negative result in Sweden (-13), indicating that the overall retirement-income system in Sweden is regressive. The average index across OECD countries is 39. Regional differences are striking, with the index averaging 82 in the Anglophone countries: public pensions are strongly progressive. In Southern European countries, by contrast, it averages 23, indicating a very strong link between earnings and pension benefits.

    • Pension-earnings link

      In some countries, such as Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and the Slovak Republic, there is a very strong link between pension entitlements and pre-retirement earnings. In contrast, flat-rate benefits in Ireland and New Zealand mean that there is no link between pension and earnings levels, but in Ireland it is linked to duration of contributions.

    • Weighted averages: Pension levels and pension wealth

      The indicators so far have shown replacement rates, relative pension levels and pension wealth for people at different levels of earnings. By taking a weighted average of these indicators over the earnings range, the measures presented here show the average for the pension level at the time of retirement and pension wealth, the lifetime value of pension payments.

    • Retirement-income package

      The retirement-income package is divided into different components using the taxonomy from the indicator of the Architecture of national pension systems above. This framework divides pension systems into two mandatory tiers. The first is a redistributive part, designed to ensure pensioners achieve an absolute minimum standard of living. A savings part forms the second, with the aim of achieving a target income in retirement compared with earnings when working. This indicator, showing the division of national pension systems between these tiers and between public and private provision, again demonstrates substantial differences in national policies.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Incomes and poverty of older people

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    • Incomes of older people

      Incomes of older people are generally lower than those of the population, even when differences in household size are taken into account. On average in OECD countries, over-65s had incomes of 86% of the population as a whole in the late 2000s. Older people’s incomes grew faster than the population’s between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s in 18 out of 27 countries where data are available. In most OECD countries, public transfers provide the bulk of income in old age.

    • Old-age income poverty

      On average, 12.8% of over 65s in OECD countries live in income poverty, defined as an income below half the national median. There is large variation between countries, from three with practically no old-age poverty to four with poverty rates double the OECD average. Poverty rates are higher for older people than for the population as whole, which averages 11.3%.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Finances of retirement-income systems

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    • Contributions

      Pension contribution rates have remained broadly stable since the mid-1990s. The average contribution rate in the 25 OECD countries that levy separate public contributions increased from 19.2% in 1994 to 19.6% in 2012, reaching a high of 20.0% in 2004. This probably reflects governments’ concerns over the effect on employment of high labour taxes. Indeed, these concerns seem to have taken precedence over the pressure on pension-system finances from ageing populations and maturing of schemes.

    • Public expenditure on pensions

      Public spending on cash old-age pensions and survivors’ benefits in the OECD increased 27% faster than the growth in national income between 1990 and 2009, from an average of 6.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 7.8%. Public pensions are often the largest single item of government expenditure, accounting for 17% of total government spending on average.

    • Pension-benefit expenditures: Public and private

      Payments from private pension schemes were worth 1.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) on average in 2009 in the 25 OECD countries for which data are available. This is equivalent to a fifth of average public spending on retirement benefits. Private-pension payments increased 27% faster than GDP between 1990 and 2009.

    • Long-term projections of public pension expenditure

      Public spending on pensions has been on this rise in most OECD countries for the past two decades, as shown by the previous two indicators. Long-term projections show that pension spending is expected to go on growing in 28 out of 31 OECD countries where data are available. On average pension expenditure is forecast to grow from 9.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 to 11.7% of GDP in 2050.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Demographic and economic context

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    • Fertility

      The total fertility rate is below the replacement level – the number of children needed to keep the total population constant – in 32 out of 34 OECD countries for 2010-15. The exceptions to this are Israel with a replacement rate of 2.9 and Mexico at 2.2. However in two-thirds of OECD countries there has been a moderate increase in fertility rates over the last decade. Fertility rates have a profound implication for pension systems because they, along with life expectancy, are the drivers of population ageing.

    • Life expectancy

      The remarkable increase in life expectancy is one of the greatest achievements of the last century. Lives continue to get longer, and this trend is predicted to continue. In 2010-15, life expectancy at birth averaged 77.2 years for men and 82.7 years for women. Among women, the figure was highest in Japan (86.9 years), followed by Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland. For men, life expectancy at birth was highest in Iceland (80.2 years) followed by Australia, Switzerland, Japan and Israel.

    • Old-age support ratio

      Population ageing is one of the main driving forces behind the wave of pension reforms in recent years. The old-age support ratio is an important indicator of the pressures that demographics pose for pension systems. It measures how many people there are of working age (20-64) relative to the number of retirement age (65+). At the moment, there are just under four people of working age for every one of pension age on average.

    • Earnings: Averages and distribution

      Average earnings are an important metric underlying the presentation of system parameters and the results of pension modelling. The distribution of earnings is used to calculate composite indicators, such as the progressivity of pension systems, the structure of the retirement-income package and weighted averages.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Private pensions and public pension reserves

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    • Coverage of private pensions

      Private pension arrangements have been growing in importance in recent years as pension reforms have reduced public pension entitlements. In 18 OECD countries, private pensions are mandatory or quasi‑mandatory (that is, they achieve near-universal coverage of employees through collective bargaining agreements). In a further eight OECD countries, voluntary private pensions (occupational and personal) cover more than 40% of the working age population.

    • Institutional structure of private pension plans

      Private pension plans can be funded through various financing vehicles. In 2011, for OECD countries for which data are available, on average, 76% of OECD private pension assets was held by pension funds, 19% was held in pension insurance contracts run by life and pension insurance companies, 4% was held in retirement products provided by banks or investment management companies, and 1% were book reserves.

    • The pension gap

      There are 17 countries with a mandatory pension scheme giving a replacement rate below the average for the 34 OECD countries. This pension gap is over 26% of pay for an average female earner in Mexico. It also exceeds 25% for men in Mexico and 21% for average earners in the United Kingdom.

    • Assets in pension funds and public pension reserve funds

      Substantial assets have been accumulated in most OECD countries to help meet future pension liabilities. Total OECD pension funds’ assets were the equivalent to 74% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011. Half of OECD countries have also built up public pension reserves to help pay for state pensions. For these countries, total public pension reserves were worth nearly 19% of GDP.

    • Asset allocation of pension funds and public pension reserve funds

      At the end of 2011, traditional asset classes (primarily bonds and equities) were still the most common kind of investment in pension fund and public pension reserve fund portfolios. Proportions of equities and bonds vary considerably across countries but there is, generally, a greater preference for bonds.

    • Investment performance of pension funds and public pension reserve funds

      After a year of positive returns in 2010, pension funds experienced negative rates of return in more than half of the OECD countries in 2011. During 2011, pension funds experienced a negative real investment rate of return of -1.3% on average. Public pension reserve funds experienced the same trend, with positive returns in 2010 and a null performance in 2011 on average.

    • Pension fund operating costs and fees

      Private pension systems efficiency, as measured by the total operating costs in relation to assets managed, varies considerably between countries, ranking from 0.1% of assets under management annually to 1.3%. Fees charged to plan members to cover these costs also vary considerably in structure and level across countries.

    • DB funding ratios

      Average funding ratios of defined-benefit pension plans varied greatly across countries at the end of 2011. For the countries that report such data to the OECD, funding levels improved in 2011 relative to 2010, with the exception of the Netherlands where they declined substantially, partly as a result of declining interest rates. Funding levels are calculated using national (regulatory) valuation methodologies and hence cannot be compared across countries.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Pensions at a Glance 2013 : Country profiles

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    • Guide to the country profiles

      The country profiles use a common framework. First, there is a brief summary of the national retirement-income system and a table of key indicators. This background table comprises average worker earnings, public pension expenditures, life expectancy and the dependency ratio (the number of pensioners for every 100 workers). Data both for the country in question and the average for the OECD as a whole are presented.

    • Argentina

      The pension system has two main components: a basic component and an additional social insurance component. For those aged 70 and above there is also an additional age-related social insurance component, as well as a social assistance component.

    • Australia

      Australia’s retirement income system has three components: a means-tested Age Pension funded through general taxation revenue; the superannuation guarantee, a compulsory employer contribution to private superannuation savings; and voluntary superannuation contributions and other private savings. Superannuation savings are encouraged through taxation concessions.

    • Austria

      The pension system consists of a defined-benefit public scheme with an income-tested top-up for low-income pensioners.

    • Belgium

      The pension system has two components: an earnings-related public scheme with a minimum pension and a means-tested safety net.

    • Brazil

      The Regime Geral de Previdência Social (RGPS), covers the private sector workforce. It is financed through payroll taxes, shared by the employer and the employee, revenues from sales taxes and federal transfers that cover shortfalls of the system. It is a mandatory, pay-as-you-go financed single-pillar scheme, which is operated by the National Social Security Institute.

    • Canada

      The pension system offers a universal flat-rate benefit, which can be topped up with an income-tested benefit, and earnings-related public schemes.

    • Chile

      The pension system has three components: a redistributive first tier, a second tier of mandatory individual accounts and a voluntary third tier. The individual accounts, introduced in 1981, are of the defined-contribution type. The redistributive first tier was substantially extended in a pension reform in 2008.

    • China

      China has a two-tier pension system, consisting of a basic pension and a mandatory employee contribution to a second-tier plan. This system, which was introduced in 1998, was significantly revised in 2006. It covers urban workers and many of the parameters depend on province-wide (rather than national) average earnings.

    • Czech Republic

      The Czech pension system consists of a public pension scheme and a mandatory funded private scheme with voluntary entry.

    • Denmark

      There is a public basic scheme. A means-tested supplementary pension benefit is paid to the financially most disadvantaged pensioners. There is also a scheme based on individuals’ contribution records, viz. the ATP. In addition, compulsory occupational schemes negotiated as part of collective agreements cover about 90% of full-time employees.

    • Estonia

      The system combines an earnings-related public scheme with mandatory contributions to funded pensions. There is also a flat-rate, basic element and a safety-net, national pension.

    • Finland

      There is a basic state pension (national pension and guarantee pension), which is pension income-tested, and a range of statutory earnings-related schemes, with very similar rules for different groups. Some of the schemes for private-sector employees are partially pre-funded while the public-sector schemes are pay-as-you-go financed (with buffer funds to even out future increases in pension contributions). Pre-funding has no direct impact on the benefit level.

    • France

      In the private sector, the pension system has two mandatory tiers: an earnings-related public pension and occupational schemes, based on a points system. The public scheme also has a without means test minimum contributory pension (minimum contributif). In addition there is a targeted minimum income for the elderly (minimum vieillesse).

    • Germany

      The statutory public pension system has a single tier and is an earnings-related PAYG system. Calculation of pensions is based on pension points. If individual old‑age provision from all income sources is not sufficient, additional means-tested benefits can be claimed from social assistance.

    • Greece

      Pensions are provided through an earnings-related public scheme plus a series of minimum pensions/social safety nets.

    • Hungary

      The Hungarian pension system is a mandatory, uniform, defined-benefit pay-as-you-go system with an earnings-related public pension combined with a minimum pension.

    • Iceland

      There is a basic state pension (national pension), which is income-tested. There are also mandatory occupational pensions.

    • India

      Workers are covered under the earnings-related employee pension scheme and defined-contribution employee provident fund administered by the Employees Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) and other employer managed funds. Civil Employees of Central Government who have joined services on or after 1 January 2004 are covered under the defined contribution based New Pension System (NPS).

    • Indonesia

      Employees in private sectors are covered by defined-contribution plan.

    • Ireland

      The public pension is a basic scheme paying a flat rate to all who meet the contribution conditions. There is also a means-tested pension to provide a safety net for the low-income elderly. Voluntary occupational pension schemes have broad coverage: over half of employees.

    • Israel

      The state pension comprises a universal insurance pension combined with means-tested income support. Until 2008 second-pillar pensions were common, but voluntary. As of January 2008 mandatory contributions to defined-contribution pension funds have been introduced.

    • Italy

      The new Italian pension system is based on notional accounts. After the reform of 2011, all workers currently contribute to a NDC scheme. Contributions earn a rate of return related to GDP growth. At retirement, the accumulated notional capital is converted into an annuity taking account of average life expectancy at retirement. It applies in full to labour-market entrants from 1996 onwards.

    • Japan

      The public pension system has two tiers: a basic, flat-rate scheme and an earnings-related plan (employees’ pension scheme).

    • Korea

      The Korean public pension scheme was introduced relatively recently. It is an earnings-related scheme with a progressive formula, since benefits are based on both individual earnings and the average earnings of the insured as a whole.

    • Luxembourg

      The public pension scheme has two components: a flat-rate part depending on years of coverage and an earnings-related part. There is also a minimum pension.

    • Mexico

      Old-age pensions for private sector workers that entered either after 1 April 2007 or before that date but opted for the new regime, are covered under a mandatory defined-contribution (DC) scheme. Under the new DC schemes, there is a minimum pension.

    • Netherlands

      The pension system has two main tiers, consisting of a flat-rate public scheme and earnings-related occupational plans. Although there is no statutory obligation for employers to offer a pension scheme to their employees, industrial-relations agreements mean that 91% of employees are covered. These schemes are therefore best thought of as quasi-mandatory.

    • New Zealand

      The public pension is flat-rate based on a residency test. Coverage of occupational pension plans continues to diminish. Coverage of the KiwiSaver scheme continues to grow.

    • Norway

      The new public pension system, beginning in 2011, consists of an income pension, and a guarantee pension for people with no or only a small income pension. The guarantee pension is income-tested against the income pension. In 2006, a mandatory occupational pension was introduced in the private sector as a supplement to the public pension.

    • Poland

      The new scheme is based on a system of notional accounts. People under 30 (born in 1969 and after) at the time of the reform must also participate in the funded scheme; people aged 30-50 (born between 1949 and 1968) could choose the funded option. However, the choice had to be made in 1999 and it was irrevocable, with the exception of those who could retire early.

    • Portugal

      Portugal has an earnings-related public pension scheme with a means-tested safety net.

    • Russian Federation

      The mandatory old-age pension consists of two components an earnings-related part based on notional defined contributions and a defined contribution part. There are also statutory social pensions and voluntary pension savings at non-state (private) pension funds.

    • Saudi Arabia

      Employees in the public and private sectors.

    • Slovak Republic

      The earnings-related, public scheme is similar to a points system, with benefits that depend on individual earnings relative to the average. Low-income workers are protected by a minimum amount of earnings on which pension is calculated. All pensioners are eligible for social assistance benefits. Defined-contribution plans were introduced at the beginning of 2005.

    • Slovenia

      The system combines an earnings-related public pension with minimum and targeted schemes.

    • South Africa

      The public pension is flat rate based on a residency test. There is also a large number of occupational schemes, though coverage is not high at lower-income levels.

    • Spain

      The Spanish public pension system consists of a single, earnings-related benefit in the contribution level, with a means-tested minimum pension. There is also a non-contribution means-tested level, which replaces the previous special social assistance scheme.

    • Sweden

      The earnings-related part is based on notional accounts and there is a small mandatory contribution to individual, defined-contribution funded pensions. There is also a pension-income-tested top‑up. Occupational pension plans – with defined-benefit and defined-contribution elements – have broad coverage.

    • Switzerland

      The Swiss retirement pension system has three parts. The public scheme is earnings-related but has a progressive formula. There is also a system of mandatory occupational persons and an income-tested supplementary benefit. The occupational pension can be supplemented on a voluntary basis.

    • Turkey

      An earnings-related public scheme with an income-tested safety net and a flat-rate supplementary pension.

    • United Kingdom

      The public scheme has two tiers (a flat‑rate basic pension and an earnings-related additional pension), which are complemented by a large voluntary private pension sector. Most employee contributors contract out of the state second tier into private pensions of different sorts. An income-related benefit (pension credit) targets extra spending on the poorest pensioners.

    • United States

      The publicly provided pension benefit, known as social security, has a progressive benefit formula. There is also a means-tested top-up payment available for low-income pensioners.

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