Intergenerational consequences of gradual pension reforms
Balancing the government budget in an aging economy may require adjusting gradually pension benefits. Such policy change can take two forms: adjusting the accrual rate (the rate at which individuals built-up pension entitlements while working) or the indexation rate (the rate a which accrued entitlements are linked to nominal wage growth). This article compare the consequences of such gradual policies across cohorts.
The authors identify a fundamental generational trade-off between democracy and equality. In particular, they show that for Belgium, 80% of the population alive at the time of the reform prefers the accrual to the indexation reform, with the implication that the youngest half of the population would bear 85% of the total adjustment cost. The indexation reform provides more generational equality because the phasing in over time has larger base and thus benefit cut can be smaller per capita. The authors then consider other reforms improving the generational equality, showing that all those reforms fail to gain majority support. Finally, considering labor incentives, they show that the indexation reform is also more efficient than the accrual reform. Efficiency meets generational equality.