Friday, November 27, 2015

27/11/15: The Welfare State Going Broke, and You Know It...

Bruegel’s  Pa Huttl and Guntram Wolff have recently posted on results of their study, under a handy title “Lack of confidence in the welfare state in the year 2050” (link here).

One chart sums up key evidence:

Thus, across eight European countries,

  • Majority of those polled felt that by 2050 public welfare systems will provide inadequate supports for pensions (59.5% of those polled) and for the unemployed (52.4%). 
  • Roughly half of those polled thought that care for the elderly (49.5%) will be inadequately supplied by the public welfare systems, and 
  • Over 45% thought that healthcare supply will fall short of their expected standards (45.4%). 

Darn scary numbers these are, even though, in my opinion, these are still too optimistic. The levels of implied state debt relating to what we call 'unfunded obligations' - contractually specified future commitments across pensions and healthcare benefits (excluding statutory, but non-contractual obligations) implies much lower probabilities of the modern welfare states being able to sustain current levels of funding.

Good example is the U.S. where current official debt stands at around USD18.5 trillion, whilst unfunded civilian and military pensions, plus Social Security and Medicare, inclusive of other contractually set Federal commitments and contingencies add another USD46-47 trillion to that (you can read more on this here)

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