First published in 1948, the International Social Security Review is the principal international quarterly publication in the field of social security.
Articles by leading social security experts present international comparisons and in-depth discussions of topical questions and studies of social security systems in different countries.
ISSA member organizations can freely access the complete current issue of the Review in English and previous issues in the electronic archive (since 1967 for articles published in English; for 2007-2013 for articles published in French, German and Spanish) via My ISSA.
Commencing in 2014, the International Social Security Review is published in English only, and abstracts of all new articles are available in eight languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
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Abstracts (current issue: April-June 2019, Volume 72, Issue 2)
Second‐pillar pensions in Central and Eastern Europe: Payment constraints and exit options
During 1998–2007, a majority of Central and Eastern European (CEE) governments enacted laws obligating workers to save for retirement in privately managed individual accounts. The governments funded these accounts with a portion of public pension revenues, thus creating or increasing deficits in public systems. After the onset of the global financial and economic crisis (2008), most CEE governments reduced these funding diversions and scaled back the accounts. Now, a decade after the crisis, this article examines the benefits that the accounts are beginning to pay retiring workers. In general, these benefits are shown to be disadvantageous compared with public pensions. Some pay lump sums in lieu of regular monthly benefits, most fail to adjust pensions regularly for inflation, and some pay women less than men with equal account balances. In several countries, pensioners with individual accounts receive lower benefits than those without them. To enable retiring workers to avoid these disadvantages, several CEE governments have allowed them to refund their account balances and receive full public pensions. Yet while this strategy diffuses worker dissatisfaction, it also places strains on public pension finance. To assist second‐pillar account holders without weakening public pensions, governments should consider making private pension savings voluntary and financing these schemes independently of public pensions – i.e. by worker and employer contributions and, possibly, direct state support.
Effective retirement age from employment and full‐time employment, and the impact of the 2008 crisis
Estimates of effective retirement age based on labour force participation rates are commonly used for actuarial experience review and policy development. However, the transition from work to retirement and the socio-economic environment have evolved over the years, influenced by a growing role for gradual retirement and the labour market impact of the 2008 economic crisis. Rather than focusing exclusively on retirement ages based on labour force participation rates, this article presents complementary estimates of retirement ages to better assess the effective retirement age from employment. It also introduces the concept of retirement from full-time employment, showing that the retirement age from full-time employment is systematically lower than the retirement age from employment. The results reveal that the trend towards an increase in the retirement age has been impacted by economic conditions when considering the effective employment of older workers. Results are presented for different Member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development over the period 2005–2015.
How fair are unemployment benefits? The experience of East Asia
Despite an increasing emphasis on active labour market measures, unemployment benefits still remain a focal point of employment protection. This article takes the cases of four East Asian economies – China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan (China) –, which are often characterized as having welfare states with a strong developmental and productivist orientation, to investigate whether, as is sometimes argued, unemployment benefits are restrictive and exclusionary. In doing so, it examines the logic behind the design of unemployment benefits and argues that they are in fact progressive in design and fair when they pay out. Nonetheless, low effective coverage and low benefit rates weaken their redistribution and compensation objectives.
Employer-oriented labour market policies in Sweden: Creating jobs and the division of labour in the public sector
In many European countries, greater importance is accorded to labour market policies in which employers are involved in activating unemployed people. Such employer-oriented policies target employers’ demand for labour and attempt to influence their willingness to hire, train or guide (often disadvantaged) unemployed groups. Using data from a qualitative interview study of an employer-oriented programme in a medium-size city in Sweden, the present article aims to develop knowledge about how these policies are used to influence employers to hire unemployed workers and how jobs created in this context differ from regular jobs. The article argues that creating jobs through new arrangements for the division of labour, with the promise of relieving regular staff of unskilled tasks, may influence employers’ willingness to hire the unemployed when used alongside other kinds of policy instruments. However, the article also shows that this new division of labour, with programme participants performing mainly unskilled tasks, has been difficult to realize, as new staff gradually come to perform an increasing number of regular working tasks.
Social health protection in Cambodia: Challenges of policy design and implementation
The Government of Cambodia is implementing ambitious reform initiatives to improve the country’s social health protection system. In January 2018, it was announced that the Health Equity Fund (HEF), which is fully subsidized by a joint government-donor initiative for the reimbursement of user fees for the poor at public health facilities, is to be expanded to some segments of informal workers belonging to associations, as well as to commune and village chiefs. Since 2017, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has provided social health insurance for formal economy workers in enterprises with eight employees or more. In January 2018, it was expanded to civil servants and all employees regardless of the size of the enterprise. However, this article highlights that the new ambitious reforms are not accompanied by careful planning as regards funding, service delivery, human resources and institutional design. This article therefore aims to examine key policy issues and challenges for Cambodia’s ambitious reform of its social health protection system in terms of resource generation, population coverage, strategic purchasing and governance.
ACT2018: A broader role for actuaries in shaping social security
Actuaries, statisticians and investment specialists are playing an ever expanding role in social security and society. This was a key take home message from the 19th ISSA International Conference of Social Security Actuaries, Statisticians and Investment Specialists (ACT 2018), which took place in Kuwait City, Kuwait from 6-8 November.
The ACT 2018 event, which brought together over 250 participants from 90 institutions and 57 countries, was hosted by the Public Institution for Social Security of Kuwait. Speakers from the actuarial profession, the ISSA General Secretariat and its member organizations and the International Labour Office (ILO) highlighted the important role of actuaries in the valuation of systems as well as in risk management, investment and system design and financing.
“As sustainability challenges remain a key concern for social security systems, the conference highlights the growing role of actuaries in investment and risk management,” affirmed ISSA Secretary General Hans-Horst Konkolewsky.
The conference was an opportunity to place the role of actuaries, as well as statisticians and investment specialists, into a wider context of social security and societal developments. Actuaries play an increasingly important role in different policy, design, investment and financing decisions. Dominique La Salle, Director for Social Security Development at the ISSA, emphasized that by taking a lifelong, people centric approach to social security, the actuarial profession can help drive innovation to improve people’s lives. The ISSA supports its member organizations in these areas with guidelines, workshops and other resources through its Centre for Excellence.
Observing trends and good practices
One session of ACT 2018 was dedicated to a special issue of the International Social Security Review (Vol. 71, No. 3), the content of which addresses the question of the actuarial and financial reporting of social security obligations. Jean-Claude Ménard, Chair of the ISSA Technical Commission on the Statistical, Actuarial and Financial Studies, underlined that the actuarial profession plays a central role in the financial evaluation of social security systems. Therefore, it is imperative for actuaries to contribute to shaping the debate on quantifying and reporting social security obligations. This session touched on issues related to intergenerational equity, sustainability and adequacy and also highlighted the practical use of ISSA-ILO Guidelines on Actuarial Work for Social Security.
Other sessions at the Conference included a regional review of pension reform trends, investment practice and mortality experience, which underlined the reform options in a rapidly changing context; the impact of ageing on social security systems; the changing labour market and implications for employment injury and pension systems; the role of actuaries in financing and design decisions; and investment management in an era of ageing populations and low interest rates. The sessions included examples and good practices from ISSA member organizations, and presentations from experts in the field.