HelpAge joint event looks at 125 years of state pensions


By Sarah Gillam

On 28-29 October, HelpAge International and HelpAge Deutschland, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and GIZ, with support from Allianz, are hosting a conference on the legacy of the world's first pension and the future of pensions in Berlin. An older woman holds her savings. How can current pension systems remain valid in a rapidly ageing world? (c) Kate Holt/HelpAge International

The event to mark the 125th anniversary of Otto von Bismarck's creation of the world's first state pension will assess his international legacy and the future of pensions globally.

Entitled "Thanks, Otto! 125 years of pensions and new global perspectives", the conference will ask how pension systems can remain valid in the context of demographic ageing, rising inequality and changing labour markets, and question what pension models of the future might be.

What is Bismarck's legacy?

In 1889, he started plans to introduce a pension law giving Germans over the age of 70 a measure of financial security in their old age. Considered the birth of the world's first state pension, it influenced similar systems worldwide throughout the twentieth century.

Over the past two decades there's been an explosion of new tax-financed, non-contributory social pensions, marking a shift in priorities for pension policy.

Social pensions exist in more than 100 countries and have the potential to create a basic regular income for the very poorest older people.

"In most European Union countries, pensions systems as a whole now do more to reduce inequality than all other parts of the tax or benefit system combined," said Michael Buente, Chief Executive of HelpAge Deutschland.

"They can also contribute to reducing poverty by increasing the amount families have to spend. State pensions are affordable even in the poorest countries."

One in two still have no pension

While rising numbers of low and middle income countries are extending social protection to their older citizens, demographic change is forcing developed nations to consider how to deliver on pension promises without bankrupting the economy.

Indeed, data from UNDESA and the International Labour Organization (ILO) respectively, shows that the number of people over the age of 60 is set to rise from 868 million people in 2014 to more than 2 billion in 2050, yet only half the world's population of pensionable age actually receives a pension.

"The fact that most people in the developed world can expect to receive a pension when they get older is a huge social policy success," said Professor Volker Deville, demography expert at Allianz.

"However, one in two older people - mostly in developing nations - still have no pension income. For many, retirement is a luxury they cannot afford."

Speakers will include government delegations, representatives from the ILO, African Union, and INGOs from across the world, as well as pension experts such as:

  • Robert Palacios, senior pension economist, a director at the World Bank and an author of the 1994 Averting the Old Age Crisis
  • Stephen Kidd, a recognised international senior social policy expert
  • Katja Hujo, Research Coordinator, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
  • Nicholas Barr, professor of Public Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a HelpAge global ambassador

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  • Sarah (HelpAge) (03 November 2014)

    Hi Arif, thanks for getting in touch and hope you enjoyed the conference. We're collating the materials now and will hopefully be able to share with all the participants in the next few days. Thanks, Sarah (from HelpAge).

  • arif zahari (03 November 2014)

    hi, i'm arif from BPJS Ketenagakerjaan Indonesia. I'm one od participant at that conference. Can i copy material presented at that conference? thanxs

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