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Pensions, power & development performance

Elias Masilela's picture
Woman who works in the daycare kitchen of a local farm in Milnerton, South Africa


The investment of pension fund assets has moved from an obscure topic for actuaries, to an issue which raises political attention at the highest level.

This is for the simple reason that it directly touches the social and economic livelihoods of people.

Since the 2008 global financial crisis, developed economies have been looking for additional sources of long-term capital to fill the gaps which bank and government balance sheets can’t fill. This is a search that has engulfed the developing world for much longer if not for as long as they exist. Younger developing economies are starting to see their pension funds grow, side by side with an increasing awareness of the impact which productively invested assets can have on economic growth both today and tomorrow. If invested for the aligned intensions of social impact and financial return, pension funds can improve people’s lives today and secure their income in future. However, this isn’t a general phenomenon – applying only to larger funds which have invested in the intellectual capacity of their Trustees, and in countries which have understood and embraced the strong relationship between the macroeconomic performance and asset performance.

Redirecting pension investments from short-term assets (government paper, bank deposits) to investments with a long-term impact is key to delivering, not only improved, but sustained returns. Private equity (PE) - equity capital not quoted on a public exchange – is one such asset class. PE investment is increasingly in vogue as such capital is the foundation of all economies, and indeed leads to the development of robust stock markets. If structured with pension investors’ risk-return consideration in mind, it can deliver the diversification benefits which these investors need.  If properly targeted, such investments will be vital in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, considering that 15 of the 17 SDGs have a focus on growth, development and sustainability (the last two being on implementation and capital resource origination). Active participation in investee companies by shareholders such as pension funds will be vital for ensuring a future sustainable and shared economy. In turn, for this to work optimally, requires conscientious and capable Trustees.

3 hindrances to expanding pensions in Kenya

Rose Kwena's picture



Did you know that in Kenya less than 15% of the population is covered with old age security? This means that many Kenyans are facing a vulnerability of retiring into poverty. But this is not accidental since established factors identified in studies commissioned by Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) necessitate this situation.  

However, Kenya is starting to tackle some of these factors and to help increase pensions coverage to reach more Kenyans to help reverse the state of affairs.

1. A chief factor limiting pension growth is that the formal sector is creating fewer jobs. Despite the positive economic growth registered in the country, employment growth in the formal sector is slow. For example, only 128,000 out of the 841,600 new jobs created in 2015 were formal. This has a direct effect on the pension services since the structure of the industry is still highly biased towards the formal employment model.
Transactions that facilitate employers and employees to contribute are generally conducted from the pay slip, and formal employers adhere more to the regulations and legislation on the issue compared to those who operate informally. As a result, millions of citizens have been cut off from the pension system.   

Luckily, this gap is slowly being narrowed by Individual Pension schemes that are specifically targeting the informal sector workers. An example of this is the Mbao pension scheme. The Plan is an inventive idea that adapts a savings product to marginal population groups and contributes to their improved social and economic security.

Can developing countries increase pension coverage to prepare for old age?

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture


While many of us work hard to postpone growing old, ageing populations as a whole are inevitable, predictable and something countries can prepare for.

As developing countries prosper, their citizens will live longer and, hopefully, healthier lives. By 2050, the number of people in the world 65 and older will have doubled from 10% to 20%. By then 80% of the world’s elderly –nearly 1.3 billion people - will live in low-income countries.
 
Are these countries set up to care for these forthcoming senior citizens and ensure they have the resources to live in dignity in old age? Will countries be able to ensure fairness between the generations and resources?
 
Current pensions systems leave many pockets of society uncovered:
  • As countries become more urbanized and families have fewer children, traditional family-based care for the elderly is breaking down, without adequate formal mechanisms to replace it.   
  • Traditional employment-based pensions systems don’t cover most informal sector workers in developing economies. In some regions, these workers account for two-thirds or more of the working age population. Even for those with formal sector jobs, pension coverage has been declining for people who’ve entered the workforce since 1990 in terms of years contributed over lifetime, according to World Bank Pensions Database. This has a major impact on the amount of retirement income they will eligible to receive.

Live longer, work longer?

Harun Onder's picture

Imagine yourself on a comfy seat like the ones they give to ministers. But do not get too cozy as you are about to make a difficult decision. Population is aging in your country, and there simply is not enough resources to finance the pension benefits of the retirees. What should you do?

The conventional wisdom suggests that you should increase the retirement age. The argument goes as follows. People live six years longer in retirement now than half a century ago. Therefore, using some of those additional years for work is not completely unfair. By increasing the retirement age, you could increase the number of contributors while decreasing that of beneficiaries at the same time. This should provide an effective remedy for the imbalances in pension system accounts.

Farewell

Tony Whitten's picture

It is part of World Bank tradition that, just before retiring, a staff member sends a short email to his/her colleagues to express how much they have enjoyed the challenges of working here, the partnerships they have had in their focus countries, and - most of all - the camaraderie of their committed, dedicated, hard-working co-workers. All this could be perceived as trite, but the feelings are absolutely genuine – as I am now finding.

How Can Sri Lanka take Advantage of its Demographic Dividend?

Susrutha Goonasekera's picture

Much has been said about Sri Lanka’s uniqueness among developing countries; no one can deny that the oldest population pyramid outside of wealthy countries.

The demographic transition implies an aging of the population, but before old-age dependency becomes an issue, there is an intermediate period of a demographic dividend when a larger proportion of the population will be at the prime working age. The success to managing the long-term age-dependency effects of the demographic transition is to use this intermediate period of demographic dividend to conserve resources for future use and to plan for a more cost-effective strategy to deal with the future age burden. This will allow older people to live a happy productive life.

The challenge is to develop a strategic approach that takes advantage of the demographic dividend period both in terms of making strategic decisions for future cost-effectiveness and save resources for future use.