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Global Pension Timebomb: Funding Gap Set to Dwarf World GDP

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he world’s six largest pension systems will have a joint shortfall of $224 trillion by 2050, imperiling the incomes of future generations and setting the industrialized world up for the biggest pension crisis in history.

To alleviate the looming crisis, governments must address the gaps in access to the pensions system and ageing populations as they are the key sources of the widening pension gap. These are the main findings of the new World Economic Forum report, We’ll Live to 100 – How Can We Afford It?, released today, which provides country-specific insights into the challenges being faced at a global level and potential solutions.

“The anticipated increase in longevity and resulting ageing populations is the financial equivalent of climate change,” said Michael Drexler, Head of Financial and Infrastructure Systems at the World Economic Forum. “We must address it now or accept that its adverse consequences will haunt future generations, putting an impossible strain on our children and grandchildren.”

The report is the latest study to calculate the impact of ageing populations on the pension gap in the world’s largest pension markets, which include the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, Canada and Australia (for more details please see the appendix to this release). The gap in those markets is the largest in the US, where a current shortfall of $28 trillion is projected to rise to $137 trillion in 2050. The average gap in the six markets combined is calculated to reach $300,000 per person. The total gap for all 8 markets in the study (which further includes China and India, which have the world’s largest populations) will reach a total of $400 trillion by 2050. All numbers are summarized in the graph below:

pension

The savings gap resembles the amount of money required in each country (including contributions from governments, individuals and employers) to provide each person with a retirement income equal to 70% of their pre-retirement income. Outgoings such as personal savings and tax are often reduced in retirement and targeting 70% of pre-retirement income, in line with OECD guidelines, is a crude guide to provide people with a similar standard of living in retirement as they had before retirement.

For low-income earners the 70% target will not be sufficient and could result in poverty unless savings are increased. The funding gap will continue to grow at a rate higher than the expected economic growth rate, often 4%-5% a year, driven in part by ageing population effects: a growing retiree population who are expected to live longer in retirement.

“The retirement savings challenge is at crisis point and the time to act is now,” said Jacques Goulet, President, Health & Wealth at Mercer, the lead collaborator for this initiative. “There is no one ‘silver bullet’ solution to solve the retirement gap. Individuals need to increase their personal savings and financial literacy, while the private sector and governments should provide programmes to support them.”

The report suggests five high priority actions that governments and policy-makers should take to adapt pension systems to address the challenges:

Review normal retirement age to increase in line with life expectancies. For countries where future generations have a life expectancy of over 100 [3], such as the US, UK, Canada and Japan, a real retirement age of at least 70 should become the norm by 2050.

Make saving easy for everyone. A good example is the recent reforms in the UK where 8% of earnings will be automatically contributed to pension savings accounts for each individual from 2019. This initiative to automate the act of saving so far has boosted savings for 22- to 29-year-olds and low-income workers, and is estimated to create $2.5 billion in additional pension savings each year.

Support financial literacy efforts – starting in schools and targeting vulnerable groups. Financial literacy education should be offered throughout people’s careers to raise awareness of the importance of saving. A good case study is the media campaign executed in Singapore for the launch of CPF LIFE, the national annuity scheme that focused on translating a simple message easily understood by the average person.

Provide clear communication on the objective of each pillar of national pension systems and the benefits that will be provided. This would give individuals an understanding of the level of income they can expect from government and mandatory occupational systems and whether they need to accumulate their own individual savings to “top-up” income provided from national systems.

Aggregate and standardize pension data to give citizens a full picture of their financial position. A good example is Denmark, where an online dashboard collates pension information to provide individuals with a holistic view of their different pension savings accounts.

The report emphasizes that governments and policy-makers have a central role to play in reforming pension systems to ensure we can adapt to societies where living to 100 is commonplace.

“Because retirement outcomes unfold slowly over decades, emerging problems are very hard to see and are virtually unchangeable once they occur,” said Robert Prince, Co-Chief Investment Officer, Bridgewater Associates and part of the World Economic Forum’s Retirement Investment Systems Reform Project Steering Committee. “Good outcomes require effective approaches and good decisions applied consistently over decades. Ineffective actions taken over decades will put a weight on society and economies that will be virtually impossible to lift once it occurs. Given ageing populations and increasing lifespans, effective reforms are required now.”

The report was prepared by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Mercer, a global consulting leader across health, wealth and careers.

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Urgent action needed to address growing opioid crisis

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Governments should treat the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis and improve treatment, care and support for people misusing opioids. Overdose deaths continue to rise, fuelled by an increase in prescription and over-prescription of opioids for pain management and the illicit drugs trade, according to a new OECD report.

Addressing Problematic Opioid Use in OECD Countries examines how, over the past few years, the crisis has devastated families and communities, especially in North America. It documents that deaths are also rising sharply in Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and England and Wales.

Between 2011 and 2016, in the 25 OECD countries with available data, opioid-related deaths increased by more than 20%. In Canada, for example, there were more than ten thousand opioid-related deaths between January 2016 and September 2018, with rates increasing from 8.4 per 100,000 people to 11.8 over this period. Opioid abuse has also put a growing burden on health services through hospitalisation and emergency room visits.  

“The opioid epidemic has hit the most vulnerable hardest,” said Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and G20 Sherpa, launching the report in Paris. “Governments need to take decisive action to stop the tragic loss of life and address the terrible social, emotional and economic costs of addiction with better treatment and health policy solutions. But the most effective policy remains prevention.”

The majority of those who die in Europe are men, accounting for 3 out of 4 deaths. However, in the United States, opioid use has been rising among pregnant women, particularly among those on low incomes. Having a mental health disorder was also associated with a two-fold greater use of prescription opioids in the US.

Prisoners too are vulnerable. The prevalence rate of opioid use disorders in Europe was less than 1% among the general public but averaged 30% in the prison population. Social and economic conditions, such as unemployment and housing, have also contributed to the epidemic.

An increase in prescription and over-prescription of opioids for pain management is among the factors driving the crisis. Governments should review industry regulations to ensure they protect people from harm as, since the late 1990s, manufacturers have consistently downplayed the problematic effect of opioids.

Doctors should improve their prescribing practices, for instance through evidence-based clinical guidelines and increased surveillance of opioid prescriptions. Governments can also regulate  marketing and financial relationships with opioid manufacturers. Coverage for long-term medication-assisted therapy, such as methadone and buprenorphine, should be expanded, in coordination with harm minimisation specialised services for infectious diseases management, such as HIV and hepatitis.

Strengthening the integration of health and social services, such as unemployment and housing support, and criminal justice systems would help improve treatment for people with Opioid Use Disorder.

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Italy should boost spending and strengthen cooperation and integration of employment services

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Italy should boost spending and cooperation at national and regional levels as part of broader efforts to help more people into work and reduce the country’s high unemployment rate, according to a new OECD report.

Strengthening Active Labour Market Policies in Italy says that the country faces greater labour market challenges than most other OECD countries. The employment rate and labour productivity are low, youth unemployment is still around 30% and the gender employment gap and long-term unemployment are decreasing only slowly.

Regional disparities are high and persistent compared to most other OECD countries. Spending on active labour market policies (0.51% of GDP) is close to the OECD average but well below the average of EU countries and levels in countries with similar unemployment rates. Moreover, active labour market policies are not well targeted to the most effective programmes and people in need, relying heavily on employment incentives. Only 2% of the budget is devoted to services that have internationally proved to be more cost-effective, such as job mediation, job placement and related services.

Public employment services play only a modest role as job brokers. Only about half of unemployed persons in Italy are registered with the public employment service (centri per l’impiego) and only half of them use these services to look for work. Access to and quality of employment services vary greatly across the country.

“To improve the performance of employment services, there is a need for further funding, boosting the local offices’ staff and their skills and modernising the IT infrastructure,” said Stefano Scarpetta, OECD Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, launching the report in Rome. “The ongoing reform started by the Jobs Act and the recent additional financial allocations to the system of public employment services have the potential to improve the performance of employment services in Italy.” 

However, for the real gains to the labour market to emerge, cooperation and co-ordination should be simultaneously introduced in the system. Within the decentralised governance system, national and regional authorities need to agree on a binding framework for accountability, enabling to measure performance of employment offices according to a set of indicators and their regionally-adjusted target levels.

The funding of local offices from the state budget should be somewhat contingent not only on the number of clients to serve but also on improvements in performance indicators, thus providing incentives to improve the quality and effectiveness of services provided.

The recent introduction of the citizen income (Reddito di cittadinanza) adds further responsibilities to the system of employment services as the new benefit recipients should receive support with job-search and should be provided the necessary active measures to succeed in that. As such, improvements in the investment and performance of the system of employment services become today more critical than ever.

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Oil Market Report: Markets remaining calm

MD Staff

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The theme we identified in last month’s Report of “mixed signals” is appropriate again this month, with geopolitics and industry disruptions confusing the supply outlook, and the first change to our 2019 demand outlook for several months. The ongoing geopolitical supply concerns around Libya, Iran, and Venezuela have been joined in the past few days by the attacks on shipping off Fujairah and on two pumping stations in Saudi Arabia. At the time of writing, there is no disruption to oil supplies and prices are little changed. The IEA is monitoring the situation, particularly in view of the proximity of Fujairah to the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz. We are also monitoring the impact of the contamination of Russian crude oil passing through the 1.4 mb/d Druzhba pipeline system. The issue will be resolved in due course, eased by commercial and government stock draws by Russia’s customers. One consequence could be a loss of confidence in the quality of the crude flows and thus a search, where feasible, for alternative supplies that could intensify price pressures for heavy/medium sour crude oil.

Despite the difficult geopolitical backdrop and other supply problems, headline oil prices are little changed from a month ago at just above $70/bbl for Brent. In the intervening period, the decision by the United States to cease the waiver programme for buyers of Iran’s crude oil did see Brent briefly reach $75/bbl. However, there have been clear and, in the IEA’s view, very welcome signals from other producers that they will step in to replace Iran’s barrels, albeit gradually in response to requests from customers. There is certainly scope for other producers to step up production with our data showing that in April parties to the Vienna Agreement collectively produced 440 kb/d less than they promised, with Saudi Arabia producing 500 kb/d below its allocation. Of course, as we wrote in the February edition of this Report, there are quality issues for refiners used to processing Iranian barrels and the fact that increases in output come at the cost of reducing the global spare capacity cushion.

In this Report, there is a modest offset to supply worries from the demand side. Our headline growth estimate for 2019 has changed little since the middle of last year, but this month we cut it by 90 kb/d to a still healthy 1.3 mb/d. The reduction is mainly concentrated in 1Q19 on weaker than expected data for Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, Nigeria, and elsewhere lowering growth by 410 kb/d versus our last Report. Even so, slower demand growth is likely to be short-lived, as we believe that the pace will pick up during the rest of the year. An important implication of our revised demand data is that in 1Q19 the oil market saw an implied surplus of supply over demand of 0.7 mb/d, which was higher than previously suggested. As we move through 2Q19, while there is considerable uncertainty on the supply side, it is highly likely that the implied balance will flip into an indicative deficit of about the same size. Stocks in the OECD at the start of April have fallen back to the level seen in July in terms of days of forward cover and other stock indicators are pointing in the same direction.

For now, despite all the supply uncertainty, headline Brent oil prices are little changed from a month ago. However, the backwardation has steepened considerably and front month prices are about $3/bbl higher than for six months out. The decline of 230 kb/d in the North Sea loading programme for June versus May, although not a surprise, is another important factor adding to overall concerns about supply. Elsewhere, contract prices are rising sharply with Asian customers paying significantly more for barrels from Middle East sources as they seek to replace their normal supplies of Iranian crude. Basrah Light, for example, was reported as offered at its highest level for nearly eight years.

The IEA is reassured to see that the challenges posed by the supply uncertainties are being managed and we hope that major players will continue to work to ensure market stability.

IEA

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