A review and analysis of the sustainability and equity of social security adjustment mechanisms
University of Waterloo
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This thesis examines stabilizing mechanisms in social security retirement systems (“SSRS”), especially those purporting to be automatic balancing mechanisms (“ABM”). It develops a consistent approach to identifying whether an ABM is robust, partial or transitory and establishes a terminology to classify balancing mechanisms. Both financial and equitable balances are considered in assessing whether an ABM achieves balance. Families of definitions of equity are presented and a benchmark by which to measure equitable balance is defined and applied. The balancing mechanisms of Canada, Germany, Japan and Sweden are described, evaluated and classified. None of these mechanisms are found to be robust.
This thesis provides a critical analysis of an approach referred to as integration to financial markets and the approach is found to be deficient. In analyzing the Swedish SSRS a critical error in the way assets are calculated is identified and a suitable correction is proposed. A further weakness in the application of the Swedish ABM is identified that means that once an imbalance occurs, balance is unlikely to be restored. The thesis also discusses some of the unusual characteristics of the steady-state contribution rate calculation for the Canadian SSRS and shows that although it has limited application and does not appear to depend on any actuarial principle, the steady-state contribution rate calculation creates a tension between the near and distant future, which is a factor in achieving financial balance over a seventy-five year horizon. With respect to the balancing mechanism in the Canadian SSRS, the thesis proposes a change in how the mechanism is defined so that the mechanism would be robust, within certain ranges.
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