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The sustainability of the private sector pension system from a long-term perspective: the case of Luxembourg

Muriel Bouchet ()

No 6, BCL working papers from Central Bank of Luxembourg

Abstract: Many projections have been made in different countries in order to assess the long-term prospects of the pension system. Updated projections are less frequent in Luxembourg. The paper contributes to fill this gap. Such an exercise is informative not only from a Luxembourg viewpoint. Luxembourg is indeed the epitome of a small, open economy, characterised by large inflows of cross-border and foreign employees. The experience of Luxembourg may therefore magnify some issues that are also of relevance in bigger countries, where they are not addressed in an explicit way because they are overshadowed by purely internal demographic and economic factors. The first part of the paper is a digression about the concept of fiscal sustainability and the most relevant indicators of sustainability. The theoretical literature in this field is somewhat inconclusive, as no clear-cut and widely accepted indicators of fiscal sustainabilty could be derived. A pragmatic approach based on the Maastricht reference values has therefore been privileged in the paper. The second part draws the attention on the current situation of the Luxembourg private pension system. This situation is extremely favourable at first sight, as the private regime has recorded large surpluses over the last years, the sedimentation of which gave way to reserves in excess of 20% of GDP. However, as illustrated in the rest of the paper, one should not conclude from these static pieces of evidence that the private pension regime is sustainable. The third Part describes the pension model used by the BCL, which extends to 2085. The salient result is that the currently favourable situation of the pension system reflects a very high rate of economic growth in the nineties and also the inflow of large contingents of cross-border and foreign employees. Since these employees are relatively young, they are currently net contributors to the Luxembourg pension regime. However, the reverse situation is bound to prevail when they will retire. Under some reasonable assumptions, this evolution would even gives way to a large debt ratio and the situation would further deteriorate if immigration or the inflow of cross-border workers were to loose their momentum. These results illustrate the need for dynamic analyses in a small, open economy such as Luxembourg. They also highlight the vulnerability of the pension system to factors that are to a large extend beyond the reach of the national authorities, like immigration and the availability of a large pool of non resident employees.

Date: 2003-01
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