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“Thanks, Otto! 125 years of pensions”: UNRISD Speaker at International Conference on Pension Reform

11 Nov 2014


“Thanks, Otto! 125 years of pensions”: UNRISD Speaker at International Conference on Pension Reform
UNRISD Research Coordinator Katja Hujo was a panellist at the international conference on pension reform “Thanks, Otto! 125 years of pensions” hosted by BMZ, GIZ, Helpage International and Allianz in Berlin on 28-29 October 2014. The conference celebrated 125 years since the first ever public pension system was introduced in 1889 by then German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and which has influenced the development of pension systems around the world. It can be considered a policy success that today contributory public pension schemes cover the majority of people in the developed world.

However, more than 50 per cent of elderly people in middle and low-income countries do not have access to pensions, and all pension systems are being affected by current global changes in demographics, labour markets, state finances, poverty and inequality. The objectives of the conference were to look into the impact and relevance of the Bismarckian model in this changing global context and to discuss reform options and models for the future.

The conference brought together more than 100 participants from 20 countries, including representatives from international organizations, government, academia, the private sector and civil society. Participants signed the Berlin Communiqué on Pensions, advocating for joint action to secure universal social protection for older populations worldwide.

Katja Hujo’s presentation was based on a series of recent UNRISD publications on pensions, including:
Some of the substantive content of the conference is summarized in a brief animation video in English at the bottom of the Helpage news item (in German).

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The Berlin Communiqué on Pensions


Signed at the international conference
"Thanks, Otto! 125 years of pensions and new global perspectives"
October 2014

In the face of global demographic ageing, characterized by widespread poverty and rising inequality among the older population, the participants of the conference

- recognize the upcoming Post-2015 agenda as an excellent opportunity to promote effective action, raise awareness for the urgency of action to adapt to an ageing world and further strengthen the necessary social protection,

- acknowledge that old age poverty and income insecurity are global and complex realities, which concern developed and developing countries, older and younger generations alike,

- confirm their shared commitment to ensure that all people can look forward to a secure and dignified old age,

- support the vision of universal social protection for older populations in all countries, necessary to combat poverty,

- highlight the need to develop coherent and sustainable pension systems that respond to the realities of the world today and in the future,

- see a progressive realization of a social protection floor including reliable pensions as a precondition for leading a dignified life in old age,

- are aware that poverty of older women and their lack of access to pensions is a special concern; older women are less likely to receive a pension than older men due to fewer opportunities for paid work in the formal sector,

- acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, given the diversity of national frameworks as well as regional and cultural contexts,

- underline that this diversity offers a wide range of opportunities to learn from the past and from each other,

- are confident that this exchange in Berlin constitutes the basis for continued cooperation—in the field of sustainable pension systems in particular and on social protection in general,

- emphasize that only through joint effort of academics, practitioners, governments, civil society and members of the private sector we will be able to raise awareness for the issue of ageing,

- call therefore for intentional cooperation of all stakeholders, both from countries with long-established pension systems and countries implementing new innovative approaches.



Photo credit: Frank M. Rafik via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0