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OECD Statistics Working Papers

The OECD Statistics Working Paper Series - managed by the OECD Statistics and Data Directorate – is designed to make available in a timely fashion and to a wider readership selected studies prepared by staff in the Secretariat or by outside consultants working on OECD projects. The papers included are of a technical, methodological or statistical policy nature and relate to statistical work relevant to the organisation. The Working Papers are generally available only in their original language - English or French - with a summary in the other.

Joint Working Paper

Measuring Well-being and Progress in Countries at Different Stages of Development: Towards a More Universal Conceptual Framework (with OECD Development Centre)

Measuring and Assessing Job Quality: The OECD Job Quality Framework (with OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs)

Forecasting GDP during and after the Great Recession: A contest between small-scale bridge and large-scale dynamic factor models (with OECD Economics Directorate)

Decoupling of wages from productivity: Macro-level facts (with OECD Economics Directorate)

Which policies increase value for money in health care? (with OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs)

Compiling mineral and energy resource accounts according to the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) 2012 (with OECD Environment Directorate)

English

A Primer on Government-Sponsored Pension Schemes in the National Accounts and their Impact on the Interpretation of Government Debt Statistics

Government debt has many characteristics and thus cannot be fully captured by one indicator. There are several different ways of defining government debt, and each definition can lead to different interpretations of a government’s financial situation. As a result, international comparisons of government debt statistics must be conducted with care. This working paper will summarise some of the major differences in defining and measuring government debt and, based on available data, will demonstrate the impact of these differences when comparing the level of government debt as a percentage of GDP across various OECD countries. This paper will also look at the challenges in incorporating government-sponsored pension schemes in government debt statistics and the implications for making international comparisons of government debt. It will then attempt to compare government debt statistics by adjusting for some of these challenges. It will also present a complementary approach for analysing and comparing government debt, using projections of old age dependency and economic growth in order to provide additional context. The key findings of this paper are that: (i) international comparisons of government debt should exclude pension liabilities until more data are available from more countries; (ii) comparisons of government debt should be conducted separately for implicit and explicit liabilities as well as for funded and unfunded pension liabilities; (iii) further cooperation is required between the national accounts, actuary and public sector / business accounting communities to enable methodological consistency in the estimation of pension liabilities; and (iv) comparisons of government debt should not rely on one indicator but instead utilise a wide array of statistics in order to provide a more relevant and complete picture of government finances both within and across countries.

English

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