Pensions: coverage and replacement rates

The proportion of people covered by a pension scheme and the extent to which pensions replace previous earnings are two important indicators of the role pension systems play in society. There is huge variation of pension coverage in the Asia/Pacific region (Figure 5.7): in Japan and Australia the pension system covers over 90% of the labour force while coverage is very low in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Lao PDR. One in three persons in the labour force and one in four people of working age are covered by mandatory pension schemes in the Asia/Pacific region, while this is 83% and 63%, respectively in OECD countries. There is a risk that the elderly in the Asia/Pacific region will have to rely more on family support to meet their needs than their peers in OECD countries.

In about half of the selected Asia/Pacific countries, the redistributive nature of pension systems leads to higher replacement rates for lower earners, which is likely to have a reducing effect on income inequality among older people. However, in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam, replacement rates are the same regardless of earning levels, and thus earnings inequality is “translated” into “pension inequality”.

For women replacement rates are often below, or at best equal to, those for men without exception (Figure 5.8). In most OECD countries pensions systems as such do not lead to gender gaps in replacement rates. However in most non-OECD economies in the Asia/Pacific region generate lower replacement rates for women than for men. This is because in many countries women retire at an earlier age and so therefore have fewer years of contributions. Also women have a higher life expectancy and so for countries that have DC schemes – for which sex-specific life expectancy is used, they will receive less year on year. Alongside low pension coverage, the gender pension gap will be another factor to threaten the well-being of the elderly in Asia/Pacific economies in the future.

Countries with a lower GDP per capita have lower pension coverage (Figure 5.9). In low-income countries where the informal economy prevails, most people cannot afford or do not want to participate in mandatory pension schemes.

Definition and measurement

Pension coverage is defined as the proportion of people that are covered by mandatory pension schemes, and measured here by i) the population aged 15 to 64, and ii) the active labour force. The coverage value is expressed as the percentage of the population or labour force that is classified as active members of a mandatory pension system during the indicated year.

Often, the replacement rate is expressed as the ratio of the pension over the final earnings before retirement. However, the indicator used here shows the pension benefit as a share of individual lifetime average earnings (re-valued in line with economy-wide earnings growth). Under the baseline assumptions, workers earn the same percentage of economy-wide average earnings throughout their career. In this case, lifetime average re-valued earnings and individual final earnings are identical.

Figure 5.7. There is huge variation of pension coverage in the Asia/Pacific region
Coverage of mandatory pension systems, %, latest year available
picture

World Bank (2018), Pension beneficiaries coverage 3Q2014, www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialprotection/brief/pensions-data.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933900382

Figure 5.8. For women replacement rates are below, or at best equal to, those for men
Gross replacement rate, mandatory pension systems, latest year available
picture

OECD does not include Colombia and Lithuania.

OECD Pension at a Glance: Asia/Pacific (2018).

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933900401

Figure 5.9. Countries with a lower GDP per capita have lower pension coverage
picture

World Bank, World Development Indicators, http://data.worldbank.org/indicator.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933900420

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