The German Public Pension System: How it Was, How it Will Be

Axel Boersch-Supan, Christina B. Wilke

NBER Working Paper No. 10525
Issued in May 2004
NBER Program(s):Aging, Public Economics

Germany still has a very generous public pay-as-you-go pension system. It is characterized by early effective retirement ages and very high effective replacement rates. Most workers receive virtually all of their retirement income from this public retirement insurance. Costs are almost 12 percent of GDP, more than 2.5 times as much as the U.S. Social Security System. The pressures exerted by population aging on this monolithic system, amplified by negative incentive effects, have induced a reform process that began in 1992 and is still ongoing. This process is the topic of this paper. It has two parts. Part A describes the German pension system as it has shaped the labor market until about the year 2000. Part B describes the three staged reform process that will convert the exemplary and monolithic Bismarckian public insurance system after the year 2000 into a complex multipillar system. The paper delivers an assessment in how far these reform steps will solve the pressing problems of a prototypical pay-as-you-go system of old age provision, hopefully with lessons for other countries with similar problems.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10525

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