Executive summary

The biggest challenges facing pension systems in non-OECD Asian economies are rapid population ageing and low coverage. Efforts to close the coverage gap by expanding eligibility to larger shares of the labour force or through non-contributory pensions are at the heart of most discussions. Increasing life expectancy may weaken financial sustainability as people live longer in retirement and the number of pensioners relative to contributors grows. Moreover, as in other regions, reforming pensions is politically challenging as it often entails unpopular measures, such as increasing the retirement age, lowering benefits or increasing contribution rates.

The international exchange of pension reform approaches and experiences can provide valuable lessons for the design and implementation of future reforms. However, it is not always easy to compare the functioning of national pension systems, due to significant differences in institutional, technical, and legal details.

This study combines rigorous analyses with clear, easy-to-understand presentation of empirical results. It does not advocate any particular type of pension system or reform. The goal is to inform the debates on retirement-income systems with data that policy makers, experts and stakeholders with different visions for the future of pensions can all use as a reference point.

The format of this fifth report follows that of the previous editions that were based on the OECD’s Pensions at a Glance series now covering the 38 member countries. The values contained within reflect the pension parameters in 2020. As with the original publications the report refers to single pensioners rather than family units.

The results are specifically analysed at three distinct earnings levels so that a more comprehensive portrayal of individual pension systems is given. Firstly, results are given for workers at average earnings, where it is assumed that the worker earns this relative level throughout their entire career without any period of interruption. The remaining two earnings levels are 50% of average earnings, commonly called low earners, and 200% of average earnings, referred to as high earners. Entry to the pension system is assumed to be at age 22 and the models are based on a full career until the normal retirement age within that economy; for China, for example, it is assumed that a man will have to work for 38 years until age 60 before being eligible for retirement pension.

The report begins by showing the different schemes that make up each national retirement-income provision, including a summary of the rules that apply. This is then followed by a brief summary of several indicators that are the benchmarks of any pension system analysis, namely replacement rates and pension wealth. These indicators are examined on both a gross and net basis. The subsequent sections then look further at both the characteristics of Asian pension systems as well as the population as a whole, through coverage, life expectancy and general demographics. Finally, Chapter 4 of the report provides detailed background information for all of the non-OECD economies covered. Comparable information on OECD countries is available online in the Pensions at a Glance series at http://oe.cd/pag.

To enable comparison between the non-OECD economies and specific OECD countries, the results are grouped by region and OECD status. The largest such grouping is East Asia/Pacific, which covers China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Within South Asia the remaining non-OECD economies are listed, i.e. India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Furthermore, the OECD countries themselves have been divided into two distinct groups: the Asia/Pacific countries of Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States; the largest European economies of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

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