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Last updated: 13 September, 2010 - Published 17:06 GMT
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Paying for pensions: affording old age
Image from Barbados National Insurance
Happy because their pensions are secure?

Only 20% of people in the world have a pension, mostly in the developed world, but that proportion has been growing as economies develop elsewhere.

There is a growing focus on the importance of pension schemes in the Caribbean as the aging population increases.

In the region, a recent study carried out by the East Caribbean Currency Unit says pension reform is urgently needed.

Their recommendations call for a wide ranging rethink on pensions.

Former banker Marius St Rose, who chaired the commisison, told BBC Caribbean that that sustaining current pension schemes around the region would be a challenge.

Marius St Rose
St Rose: Urgent pension reform needed in Eastern Caribbean

"We would hope that at the end of the day the politicians and the unions would be interested in the eventual welfare of their workers, particularly at retirement," Mr St Rose said.

(You can hear BBC Caribbean's interview with Mr St Rose and other features and reports looking at pensions across the region starting Tuesday 14 September.)

The global picture

Across the globe, the cost of paying for any sort of pension is becoming harder and harder.

Can the global economy afford it?

The size of the global "pension pot" (technically, the value of all types of pension assets under management) is roughly $17.5 trillion.

That's 28% of global GDP.

In the OECD, the club of developed economies, pension assets under management amount to US$17 trillion - that's 67 percent of the total GDP of OECD nations (source: OECD Global Pension Statistics).

In emerging market economies, the best estimate of the "pension pot" is between US$0.4 trillion and US$0.5 trillion according to the UK's National Institute of Social and Economic Research/Brunel University.

As a proportion of GDP in Emerging Market Economies, the value of pension funds are much lower at around 16.4 percent.

That is because, globally, 8 out of 10 people have no pension provision.

Lack of adequate pensions for most

The United Nations report, World Economic and Social Survey 2007: Development in an Ageing World, says "80% of the world's population do not have sufficient protection in old age to enable them to face health, disability and income risks.

"In developing countries alone, about 342 million older persons currently lack adequate income security," it notes.

Globally, the value of pension funds declined very rapidly in 2008 because of drops in the value of shares on stock exchanges around the world.

This has severely limited the amounts which funds can pay out and is half the reason for the drastic reviews of pensions systems now being undertaken.

Pension funds in non-OECD countries fared less badly and - in the case of public pension reserves - all losses from the financial crisis of 2008 were made up by the end of 2009.

That's because stock exchanges in emerging market economies fared slightly better and because more of the money in emerging market pension economy funds is put into safer asset classes like government bonds.

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