Old age and pensions

Authored by: Karl Hinrichs

Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138631649
eBook ISBN: 9781315207049
Adobe ISBN:


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In modern societies old age is synonymous with retirement. It describes a third stage in the life course which is no longer bound to gainful work because earned income is replaced with (public) pensions and accruals from former savings. Ongoing increases in life expectancy have extended the retirement period, and while a lengthened life span is regarded as a blessing for the individual, a concomitantly prolonged average period of pension receipt poses substantial challenges for public and private pension schemes. Public pensions account for the largest spending item of most developed welfare states and, in view of the demographic aging process, measures to moderate the growth of pension expenditures rank high on OECD countries’ political agenda since about the 1990s. Old age not only means pension payments; the elderly are also the main consumers of health and long-term care, thus further increasing the old age bias in welfare spending. Along with their rising electoral weight, reforms that attempt to contain the growth of social expenditure relating to the elderly may become an ever more difficult exercise in democratic polities.

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