Social Security Reform: Other Countries' Experiences Provide Lessons for the United States

GAO-06-126 Published: Oct 21, 2005. Publicly Released: Oct 21, 2005.
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Many countries, including the United States, are grappling with demographic change and its effect on their national pension systems. With rising longevity and declining birthrates, the number of workers for each retiree is falling in most developed countries, straining the finances of national pension programs, particularly where contributions from current workers fund payments to current beneficiaries--known as a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) system. Although demographic and economic challenges are less severe in the United States than in many other developed countries, projections show that the Social Security program faces a long-term financing problem. Because some countries have already undertaken national pension reform efforts to address demographic changes similar to those occurring in the United States, we may draw lessons from their experiences. The current and preceding Chairmen of the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Committee on Ways and Means asked GAO to study lessons to be learned from other countries' experiences reforming national pension systems. GAO focused on (1) adjustments to existing PAYG national pension programs, (2) the creation or reform of national pension reserve funds to partially prefund PAYG pension programs, and (3) reforms involving the creation of individual accounts. We received technical comments from SSA, Treasury, the OECD, and other external reviewers.

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