How pension systems reproduce inequalities and poverty in old age in Europe

Professor Bernhard Ebbinghaus presented his comparative analysis on reproducing inequalities and poverty risks in old age pension income across Europe at the Finnish Centre for Pensions in Helsinki as part of their ETK Research seminar on Pension reforms, non-standard work and life course inequalities in the OECD.

There has been much discussion recently of pension sustainability, in the face of demographic ageing. But there has been relatively little exploration of whether retirement income is enough for people’s basic needs – and there is growing evidence of an increase in old age poverty in many European countries.

Different pensions systems are in use across Europe – some are not always capable of effectively reducing poverty despite the explicit goal to do so, and some are better suited to reduce poverty. Professor Ebbinghaus’ research finds that the elderly are more at risk of poverty than the working population. The exceptions are some Nordic pension systems such as Finland, a few central European countries as well as the Dutch multipillar system. Overall there is still considerable variation across Europe in the reproduction of income inequality, and poverty risks from working lives into old age retirement income, particularly for social risk groups such as those with non-standard working lives.

Find out how he answered the underlying question: ‘Do you think pension systems should even out the inequalities of labour market?’ in this short YouTube interview.

To find out more:

Ebbinghaus, Bernhard, Kenneth Nelson, & Rense Nieuwenhuis (2019). “Poverty in Old Age” LIS Working Paper Series, No. 777.