What constitutes adequate social security benefits and services?

What constitutes an adequate benefit or service? And against which benchmarks can adequate benefits and services be defined and eventually measured? The ISSA Adequacy Project enables an assessment of the degree to which social security programmes are meeting their objectives by defining, measuring and analysing a multi-variable definition of benefit adequacy.

The definition of an adequate retirement benefit has often focused on one measure alone – the replacement ratio. Given the multiple aims of social security systems, this focus is too narrow. The ISSA has developed a quantitative model which defines and assesses a multivariable measure of retirement benefit adequacy. The model incorporates seven parameters that aim to reflect the different aspects and objectives of adequacy, at both an individual and societal level. These parameters are:

  1. Benefit Levels 
  2. Exiting labour market at appropriate age
  3. Administrative Capacity (facilitating adequacy improvements)
  4. Interaction with other retirement provision 
  5. Intergenerational Equity (Sustainability of Benefit Adequacy)
  6. Security of Adequacy
  7. Coverage

By attempting to develop a broader measure of all aspects of adequate benefit provision – such as labour market aims, security of benefits and interaction with other stakeholders and their benefit provision – the project seeks to place a value on the different parameters of provision.

The ISSA retirement adequacy model is available to member institutions to run. An excel spreadsheet and manual are available to guide members through the process. For member institutions who have used the model, it has proved useful not only in revisiting the objectives of their retirement benefit systems but also  provided input on the most appropriate design of benefits, how benefits are delivered, how multiple objectives can be measured, the management of data, interaction with other policies and coordination with other stakeholders.

The first report in the ISSA Adequacy series entitled "Retirement Benefit Provision" includes the results of 8 social security institutions in the four ISSA regions and their views on the model.

ISSA Reports

Measuring multivariable adequacy and the implications for social security institutions:


ISSA User Manuals

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