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The New Pension Mix in Europe

Recent Reforms, Their Distributional Effects and Political Dynamics


Edited By David Natali

This book – based on a research project carried out by the Observatoire Social Européen asbl, with the financial support of the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) – looks at the most recent developments in pension policy and politics in Europe and advances our understanding of the field in three respects: firstly, it contributes to improve our knowledge of the most recent reform wave passed in the wake of the recent economic and financial crisis; secondly, it assesses the long-term financial and social sustainability of pensions; thirdly, it analyses the politics of pensions and the way policymakers and stakeholders interact in order to address the major challenges to pensions.

The evidence proposed by six country chapters (about Italy, France, Finland, Poland, the Netherlands and UK) and three more transversal chapters (about the role of the EU, that of trade unions in pension reforms, and the main challenges to pension systems in Europe) proves that pension systems have been altered in the wake of the recent crisis. The more evident changes have consisted of: the halt – at least in some countries – of the spread of private pension funds; the improvement in the financial viability of the systems paralleled by more evident risks for the future adequacy of pension benefits; and the alteration of pension politics with the risk of the progressive marginalisation of the trade union movement. In many countries, reforms have been passed without any major social concertation, while the European Union (EU) has had a more evident influence, especially in the countries hit most by the crisis. As a consequence of these trends, we see the emergence of a "new" pension mix in Europe, with new institutional settings, and new challenges.

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The Changing EU “Pension Programme”. Policy Tools and Ideas in the Shadow of the Crisis (Igor Guardiancich / David Natali)


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The Changing EU “Pension Programme”

Policy Tools and Ideas in the Shadow of the Crisis



Pensions policy in Europe is a typical example of nation-state-based policies. Together with a few other areas of public intervention, old-age retirement schemes have contributed to the set-up of contemporary welfare states. Yet they are increasingly at the top of the European Union (EU) agenda and its interest in economic growth and prosperity.

The aim of the present chapter is to summarize the main traits of what we call the “EU pension programme”, which is made up of three main fields of intervention: the completion of the EU pension market; the financial sustainability of pension programmes; and the broader modernization of national old-age retirement systems. While the first area is related to EU law (the Community method), the two latter dimensions have been progressively integrated into the EU economic and social governance (both contained within the European Semester that avails itself of several legal bases underpinning Macroeconomic and Fiscal coordination as well as the socioeconomic objectives of the Europe 2020 agenda). The key issue explored in this chapter is the evolution of the EU pension programme before and after the economic and sovereign debt crises as well as its (potential) influence on the “new pension mix” in the Member States. Looking back at the past decades of EU policy decisions in the field, we develop...

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