Europe’s €30trn pension fund ‘hole’

Economic growth

SHARE THIS STORY

Pension wake-up.pngPensions were one of the great inventions of the past century. Now the European Central Bank (ECB) has issued a ‘wake-up call’ on the affordability issues that lie ahead.

The reason is very simple. As we note in ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal’, pensions were introduced first introduced in Germany in 1889, and then in the UK in 1908. The idea was to provide a small amount of money to a small number of people for a small period of time:

• Life expectancy then was 30 years lower than today
• Pensions only went to those who lived 20 years longer than average

Since then, we have failed to index pension age to rising life expectancy. In addition, Westerners have come to assume that pensions are a ‘universal right’. We forget that younger people will have to pay the bill for this dramatic increase in costs.

The ECB’s report summarises the result. It calculates state-funded pension obligations in 19 EU countries where sufficient data exists:

• They have combined obligations of €30trn ($39trn)
• By comparison, total EU GDP in 2010 was only $12trn

The ECB is not supposed to intervene in political issues. So it cannot publically state the obvious conclusion. But most people reading the report will be in no doubt about what this means. Put simply, future pensioners are most unlikely to actually receive the money that has been ‘promised’ to them. Younger generations cannot, and will not, afford to pay the bill.

In turn, this has enormous implications for the type and cost of the products and services that older people will require. Affordability will be the key criteria for them in future years, not ‘value in use’.

Companies that grasp this challenge will not only help to cushion the transition for disappointed would-be pensioners. They will also build a robust platform for their own future growth.

PREVIOUS POST

A China 'hard landing' may be unavoidable

18/01/2012

Saturday’s blog post highlighted the risk of a hard landing in China. This...

Learn more
NEXT POST

Saudi comments increase oil market uncertainty

21/01/2012

The International Energy Agency (IEA) confirmed the blog’s worst fears thi...

Learn more
More posts
‘Watch out below!’ as supply chain chaos comes to an end
14/11/2021

“What goes up, comes down” is usually a good motto when prices start to reach for the sk...

Read
Industry now needs to step up, if Net Zero is to be achieved
31/10/2021

Net Zero is clearly the key issue of our time. With COP26 about to start, 3 key elements need to com...

Read
The Fed’s stock market bubble is at risk as China bursts its real estate bubble
24/10/2021

The US stock market bubble just keeps rising. And every investor “knows” that the US Fed...

Read
EU patience starts to run out as UK threatens to break the N Ireland Protocol
17/10/2021

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Brexit still isn’t “oven-ready”, despite the UK ...

Read
An end to the China bubble would risk a Minsky moment
05/10/2021

My letter in today’s Financial Times warning of the risk to Western financial markets from the bur...

Read
Xi aims to “bring order out of chaos” by bursting China’s property bubble
03/10/2021

China is at the start of its biggest economic shake-up since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping launched his p...

Read
Housing markets face long-term downturn as central banks abandon stimulus
05/09/2021

Last month saw the beginning of the end for the central banks’ 20-year experiment with stimulu...

Read
Businesses set for transformation as supply chain chaos combines with Net Zero targets
15/08/2021

‘Business as usual’ seems a most unlikely outcome as we look forward over the next 6 months....

Read

Market Intelligence

ICIS provides market intelligence that help businesses in the energy, petrochemical and fertilizer industries.

Learn more

Analytics

Across the globe, ICIS consultants provide detailed analysis and forecasting for the petrochemical, energy and fertilizer markets.

Learn more

Specialist Services

Find out more about how our specialist consulting services, events, conferences and training courses can help your teams.

Learn more

ICIS Insight

From our news service to our thought-leadership content, ICIS experts bring you the latest news and insight, when you need it.

Learn more