28 Apr 2008

A Comparative Typology of Pension Regimes

Arjan Soede / Cok Vrooman

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European Network of Economic Policy Research Institutes (ENEPRI) Research Report No. 54  / 36 pages

This report presents an empirical typology of pension regimes in the European Union, the US, Canada, Australia and Norway. The categorisation is based on 34 quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the mandatory parts of the pension systems in these countries. The empirical analysis shows that Esping-Andersen’s classical distinction between liberal, corporatist and social-democratic welfare regime types does not entirely hold in the case of pension systems. The empirical traits of the various pension systems can be summarised on two main dimensions: the general level of pension provision and the existence of private schemes within the mandatory part of the pension system. On these dimensions four clusters of countries, or pension regime types, have been identified empirically. Two of those are as one would theoretically expect: the corporatist group has rather high earnings-related pension benefits, while the liberal pension regime type provides a more basic, means-tested pension. However, two other clusters are not in line with the standard classification of welfare regimes. In the ‘moderate pensions’ cluster, the level of pension provision is lower than in the corporatist countries, but it surpasses the standards attained by countries with a liberal pension regime. In countries belonging to the ‘mandatory private’ cluster, the government obliges employees to participate in private pension schemes, which are generally funded and based on defined contributions. The pension level in this group is moderate or high.

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