Navigating the Changing Landscape of Global Pension Systems

The 2023 Mercer Pension Index report has shed light on the unprecedented challenges faced by retirement income systems worldwide. Emerging factors, such as shifting demographic structures marked by declining birth rates, are putting immense pressure on the long-term efficiency of these systems. Notably, the reliance on future generations of taxpayers to fund pensions for previous generations in pay-as-you-go systems is becoming increasingly precarious.


Contrary to popular belief, the significance of investment returns during an individual's working and retirement years surpasses the level of actual contributions. The resurgence of inflation has also dealt a blow to public confidence in pension programs' ability to deliver adequate retirement benefits in the long run. While inflation may be on the decline in certain economies, its resurgence has underscored the risk for both current and future retirees.


The 2023 Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index meticulously assesses retirement systems in 47 countries, unveiling the challenges and opportunities inherent in each. In response to these circumstances, pension arrangements are urged to shift towards a more individualized focus, reducing reliance on third parties. Long-term planning is now more critical than ever.


The study identifies the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, and Israel as having the most robust pension systems, each receiving an A grade in 2023. Despite the Netherlands undergoing significant pension reform, transitioning from a predominantly collective benefit structure to a more individually defined contribution approach, its system retains the highest index value for 2023. This is attributed to the assurance that, despite changes, the system will continue to provide excellent benefits supported by a strong asset base and robust regulation.


The World Economic Forum has highlighted three key areas pivotal to overall financial security in retirement:

  1. Establishing a "safety net" pension for all.
  2. Enhancing access to well-managed, cost-effective retirement plans.
  3. Supporting initiatives to increase contribution rates.


To improve long-term outcomes, various reforms can be implemented, including:

  • Increasing coverage of employees and the self-employed in private pension systems.
  • Adjusting state pension and retirement ages based on increasing health-adjusted life expectancy.
  • Encouraging higher labor force participation at older ages.
  • Promoting private saving and addressing gender and minority pension gaps.
  • Minimizing leakage from retirement savings systems before retirement.
  • Enhancing governance and transparency in private pension plans.


The World Bank's multi-pillar system, consisting of a mix of public and private options, offers a comprehensive approach to old-age income security. The five-pillar system includes non-contributory basic pensions, mandated public pension plans, privately managed occupational or personal pension plans, voluntary fully funded plans, and a voluntary system outside the pension framework.


For an in-depth analysis and rating of pension systems in Latin America, download the full report.


As the landscape of global pension systems evolves, proactive measures and comprehensive reforms are essential to ensure financial security for retirees worldwide. 

If you have any questions about your financial planning, or are interested in learning how to design a personal financial plan for you and your family, please arrange a call or meeting with our business partners EBG International