This section provides a review of literatures on pension rights portability as well as studies on its possible link to labor mobility. Some basic definitions are also established to lay a foundation for further discussion in later chapters.
Pension rights portability
Traditionally, pension portability was defined as the ability to carry a pension from one pension plan to another. More recently, it is understood as the ability to preserve the value of pension benefits when changing job.
Pension portability is the capacity to preserve the actuarial value of accrued pension rights when switching jobs. A pension scheme lacking full portability imposes a portability loss on workers who change to another scheme. The portability loss is the shortfall of retirement benefits from those that would have been paid if there had been no change in the pension scheme membership due to a change in jobs (Andrietti, 2001; Blake and Orszag, 1997 p.10).
Within-borders pension portability refers to the preservation of pension rights accrued by workers moving within national borders, being strictly tied to country specific regulations and pension plan design choices. Cross-border pension portability refers to the safeguard of pension rights accrued by workers moving to a different country. In this case differences in country specific pension regulations, including fiscal and pension plan design aspects, enter into the picture putting additional considerable factors in analysing the link between pension and labour mobility.
In defined contribution (DC) pension schemes, contributions are accumulated in an individual savings account that is eventually used to buy an annuity or to pay programmed withdrawals to the worker when (s)he retires. Usually, defined contribution schemes have full or almost full portability: after a short vesting period, workers assume ownership of their accounts and can take their savings with them when they change to another pension scheme (Andrietti, 2001; Blake and Orszag, 1997 p.10).
In defined benefit (DB) pension schemes, the sponsor of the plan promises a pension that usually depends on final wages and the number of years of service. Workers who leave the scheme earlier receive a pension based on the salary and years of service at the moment of leaving. Early leavers tend to suffer a portability loss in defined benefits schemes. In some cases, the pension rights in DB schemes can be transferred to the new pension scheme when the worker switches jobs. The worker will eventually receive one pension that will account for the service in both plans, but most DB schemes are designed in such a way that workers who switch jobs suffer a loss of pension rights.#p#分页标题#e#
It is more difficult to provide full portability of pension rights in unfunded or partially funded pension plans than in fully funded pension plans. It is simple to transfer pension rights of a moving worker in a fully funded scheme because there are assets that back those rights. Things are less easy in an unfunded scheme. The resources that will be used to pay the pension are not yet available when the active worker switches jobs. If the pension scheme that receives a switching worker recognizes the pension rights accrued in the previous scheme, it assumes a liability which will have to be backed by a promise from the sponsor of the previous pension scheme. This promise is a financial asset, but a peculiar one. It is not a diversified basket of well-rated assets or a money transfer that the receiving pension plan can immediately invest in the portfolio it prefers best, but just an illiquid long run promise from the sponsor of the pension plan the worker is leaving. A way out of this problem is to have the pension schemes provide independent pensions to workers who have served for a limited period in different plans. This solution however compounds some portability losses - notably the so-called vesting losses and increases administrative costs.
Non financial or Notional defined contribution (NDC) schemes seem to be better equipped than defined benefit schemes, but less equipped than fully funded defined contribution schemes to provide fully portable pensions. However, Holzmann et. Al. (2005 p.32, p.36) argues that public NDC schemes can provide full portability as well. The social security institution of the country of origin of a migrant worker can transfer money to its counterpart in the destination country either when the worker migrates or when the benefit is due upon retirement.
Multi-pillar pension systems face different portability challenges across pillars. In principle, it should not be difficult to get full portability on pensions based on savings accounts, but the pensions provided by unfunded defined benefits pillars are not likely to be fully portable.
Supplementary occupational pension schemes tend to provide less portability than statutory or social security schemes. Occupational schemes are organized and sponsored by the firms in which workers work and typically provide supplementary pensions. Statutory schemes are organized by governments and usually provide the basic pension. While occupational schemes cover workers in a firm or at most in a branch of the industry, statutory pension schemes usually provide nationwide coverage. Therefore, the worker is more likely to have to change an occupational than a statutory plan when he switches jobs. Nevertheless, portability losses may also take place in nationwide statutory schemes when workers migrate across international borders.
Pension portability losses 养老保险便携性损失#p#分页标题#e#
Literatures on pension portability distinguish at least four sources of pension portability losses:
Vesting losses: If a worker leaves a job before completing the vesting period (i.e. the minimum years of service in the scheme required to receive the benefit), (s)he gets nothing from this period.
Final wage losses: most defined benefit pension plans base the pension on the last salary. According to this rule, an early leaver will have a pension computed on the salary he earned when he left the job, which is going to be smaller than the salary at the end of his working career, supposed that wages are growing with experience, or if there is inflation and wages used to compute the benefit are not "valorized", i.e. adjusted by inflation.
Backloading losses: Some defined benefit pension schemes have increasing accrual rates: pension rights grow slowly during the first years in the scheme and start growing faster with seniority. Therefore, workers who switch jobs accumulate lower pension rights.
Penalties losses: some pension schemes accept rights accrued in other schemes but with a penalty. Also some programs penalize pension paid abroad, i.e. apply reductions to pensions paid to retirees who left the country.
The portability losses of cross-border mobile workers have been addressed in some regions through processes of harmonization and/or coordination of national pension policies. Harmonization refers to a process of reforming national schemes aimed at reducing differences between these schemes. Coordination refers to a set of regulations that adapt the effects of national schemes without changing the parameters of the national schemes. Different countries may have different views about what are the main goals of the pension schemes and how to pursue those goals better. Hence the harmonization of pension schemes might be resisted by local authorities on a sovereignty basis. Also, the harmonization of national schemes may not eliminate the portability losses of migrant workers. Rules that constraint the exportability of pensions limit the portability of pension rights as well. For example the rules may allow the pensioners to receive the benefit abroad, but with a penalty (Koettle, 2006). The US limits the countries where US pensions can be received. Also, the fees and official exchange rates that many countries impose on international transfers of money negatively impact on the pension that migrant workers receive when they retire and return to their home country.
In OECD countries, the portability problem seems to be mostly linked to occupational schemes. Public pension programs do not impose pension losses on workers who switch jobs within a given country. Workers who cross national frontiers might suffer portability losses, but according to several analysts the existing agreements between public pension schemes prevent migrant workers from incurring significant pension right losses. (Schmahl, 1993, p.320; Whiteford 1996; Andrietti, 2001, p.59).#p#分页标题#e#
Pension portability and Labour mobility 养老金的可移植性和劳动力流动性
Most studies on job mobility have as a starting point the assumption that differences between wages in current and alternative jobs are the driving force behind job change, and pension portability losses as well as other costs discourage changes of employer. The first generation of papers estimated quit or job change equations which included binary variables capturing pension information as well as variables approximating potential wages and /or pension benefits in current and alternative jobs as regressors, e.g. Schiller and Weiss (1979), Mitchell (1982). These early studies for the US found strong and significant evidence of pensions deterring worker mobility, although it was not always possible to relate this effect to specific pension plan characteristics. Two German studies in this vein, Schnabel and Wagner (1999), come to somewhat differing results. They find no effect on voluntary and involuntary firm exits.
Several decades of research on labour mobility have looked deep into the possible causal relationship between pension coverage and mobility. These studies established an empirical evidence that turnover is lower in jobs covered by occupational pension than in other jobs. Starting from this finding, studies on labour mobility aims to explain through more elaborate models the primary causes of job changing behaviour. Explanations for the negative relationship between pensions and mobility has been discussed. However, despite the diversity of works on this issue, the results of these studies remain inconclusive and inconsistent. Three explanations dominate in the empirical literatures.
The early literature interpreted the phenomenon of different worker turnover rates in pension-covered jobs and jobs without pension as a signal that pension portability losses deterred mobility. Occupational pensions may reduce mobility by imposing a capital loss on those who change jobs (or in other words, it is pension portability loss which may cause workers to refrain from changing jobs). Some studies have tried to capture the effect of occupational pensions on mobility more precisely by explicitly modeling the capital loss incurred by pension-covered mobile workers. This extension of the analysis is often based on the work of Ippolito (1985) who models pension portability loss in the framework of an implicit pension contract. Most authors concentrate on the capital loss of vested workers. In his work, Rabe (2006) extend the analysis to non-vested workers to account for the long vesting period. These studies including the measuring of capital loss come to different results.
Gustman and Steinmeier (1993) find the effect to be significant but small for job separations. Whereas, no such effect is apparent in the studies by Andrietti (2001 and 2004). A possible explanation is that inflation indexation of deferred benefits, which has a huge impact on the magnitude of capital loss, was introduced after the early UK study was carried out. The comparative European study by Andrietti (2001) shows significant effects of portability loss only for Ireland. It was the only country with no indexation of early leavers at the time studied. Whereas, Rabe (2006) came to different result. He analysed a German case which differs from the Anglo-American situation in that occupational pensions contribute considerably less to the retirement income of pensioners and a smaller proportion of workers are covered. This allows him to further explore the sensitivity of mobility to capital loss. Moreover, assuming that wage premiums are indicative of workers' high productivity, Rabe (2006) also examined whether less generous pension schemes have productivity effects similar to those triggered by the more generous schemes in the US and the UK. This raised the question of whether mobility is affected by the smaller capital loss in Germany and whether less generous pension schemes have productivity effects similar to those triggered by the more generous schemes in the US and UK. The portability loss suffered by mobile workers depends on the portability options defined by pension regulation. Workers leaving an occupational pension plan before retirement age are usually entitled to a pension only after having completed a vesting period. If they leave before the vesting period is completed, they lose all accrued benefits. Workers whose benefits have become vested are entitled to a deferred retirement pension. Here a real capital loss occurs in defined benefit plans, where the deferred retirement pension is commonly based on nominal earnings at the point of job change. If these benefits are not price or wage indexed, their value erodes over the time until workers are eligible for retirement benefits. On this ground, Rabe found that Germany has only recently reduced the period until accrued pension benefits become vested from ten to five years to improve portability; deferred benefits are not indexed, and since the vast majority of occupational pension plans are traditionally defined benefit, capital loss is an important issue in Germany. The paper reveals that occupational pension coverage deters voluntary job transitions by imposing a capital loss on both vested and non-vested early leavers. Furthermore, workers in pension-covered jobs receive a compensation which is about 10 - 12% higher than in jobs not covered by pensions. Compensation premiums make mobility from pension jobs less attractive and workers face less outside opportunities for better jobs. The paper shows that the effects of occupational pensions on mobility do not differ substantively between Germany and the Anglo-American countries, despite the considerable differences in pension generosity. There is a fairly strong sensitivity of mobility to capital loss even when capital loss is not very large. Distinguishing between capital loss of pension benefits which are vested and those which are not yet vested, the author finds that both sources of capital loss pose an obstacle to job changes. He suggested that decreasing vesting periods could be an effective policy option if the political aim was to enhance mobility. However, these increases are from low initial mobility rates, and the reforms will take a long time to be implimented as they only concern new entrants into pension plans. An indexation of preserved benefits (for vested early leavers) would have a large impact, doubling mobility among pension-covered workers and increasing it by 22% overall. Both shorter vesting periods and indexation of benefits would reduce retirement income losses of multiple job holders on defined benefit schemes.#p#分页标题#e#
Some recent empirical literature has again challenged this view arguing that there is no evidence of pensions causing less labor mobility. They found that defined contribution plans (which are fully portable) are just as negatively correlated with job mobility as defined benefit plans (which often cause pension portability losses). Hence, portability losses do not seem to explain the correlation. These studies also argues that pension-covered workers often receive a compensation premium which discourages mobility. Thus it may not be the portability loss (alone) which lowers the mobility rate of pension covered workers. Jobs offering pension benefits offer higher compensation than jobs not offering pension benefits and it is this compensation premium that reduces mobility. Workers simply do not quit from good jobs. In other words, "good jobs" provide both pensions and stability.
Evidence in favour of this argument is provided by Gustman and Steinmeier (1993) who show that pension-covered workers risk wage losses when they change jobs. Thus there is no trade-off between cash wages and pensions but rather pensions are granted in addition to wages which are on average higher than those of workers without pensions. Higher compensation in pension-covered jobs arguably results from higher worker productivity in such jobs, which can be explained, for example, by self-selection or higher firm investment into pension-covered worker's training. It seems to be evident that mobility is affected not only by the worker's current wage and potential capital loss, but also by how his current compensation compares to that on alternative jobs. Gustman and Steinmeier (1993) follow this approach, hypothesized that low mobility is correlated with occupational plans not because pension plans deter mobility but because implicit labor contracts cause both occupational plans and low mobility. According to this theory, firms and workers would engage in implicit contracts that would reduce mobility because of monitoring and training issues. In the words of Gustman and Steinmeier (1993): "...pension-covered jobs offer higher levels of compensation than workers can obtain elsewhere, and it is this compensation premium, rather than non-portability, that accounts for lower turnover among workers covered by pensions".
Thus the observation of a compensation premium for pension-covered workers can be taken as indirect evidence of the productivity effects of pensions (Dorsey 1995). In his studies, Dorsey also finds evidence of the existence of a wage premium for pension-covered workers. The empirical results reveal that mobility among job holders is low independent of occupational pension status. Individuals without pension-covered jobs are more likely to change jobs than are individuals on jobs covered by pensions. Mobility is also higher among holders of non-vested pensions than among those with pension benefits already vested. The study also finds considerable wage differences between job covered and not covered by pensions. Those who were not a member of an occupational pension scheme have far lower earnings than those who were scheme members. While individuals leaving jobs not covered by pensions earn about average wages in this group, mobility out of pension-covered jobs concentrates among workers with earnings clearly below the average. The study also shows that movers realize larger wage increases than stayers, irrespective of pension status. However, movers from pension-covered jobs can not compensate the initial wage differentials that separate them from the stayers. Conversely, movers from non-pension jobs can realize a wage advantage over the group of stayers in such jobs. These results suggest that workers on pension-covered jobs receive a considerable wage premium which makes it more difficult for these individuals to find a better alternative job. This would provide one explanation for the lower mobility among these workers. It would also explain why among pension scheme members those with below average earnings are more mobile. The wage relationship of movers and stayers on non-pension jobs seems to be in line with the standard results of mobility studies. These studies usually find better educated, young males with higher occupational status to be more mobile than other workers. According to these findings it comes as no surprise that mobile workers can realize high post-mobility wages. As pointed out in a survey by Stuart Dorsey, a key issue in assessing the labour market impact of pension schemes is the perception of the nature of the relationship linking the employer and the employee. If the labour market is perceived as similar to an auction market with continuous clearing, efficient allocation of workers across jobs would call for minimising costs of job changes and thus rendering pensions fully portable. If, on the contrary, the labour market is perceived as the locus of implicit contracts between the employer and the employee, barriers to the portability of pensions may constitute a productivity enhancing incentive, encourage firm-specific training programmes (to enhance the human capital of the firm) and help to reduce "shirking" (reduced endeavour at work). Barriers to the portability of pensions thus may discourage excessive resignations when productivity in the economy in general or in other branches increases. Nevertheless, such barriers (or penalties) may become an impediment to efficient job mobility in the occurrence of firm-specific productivity declines. The general conclusion of Stuart Dorsey is that, on balance, the literature supports the view that incentives established by non-portable pension benefits do enhance firm-specific productivity. According to Dorsey, the role of pensions in enhancing productivity is a plausible prediction of models that have proven useful in explaining other labour market outcomes. A substantial amount of indirect evidence is consistent with the positive productivity effects of pensions. Furthermore, other studies indicate that employers are more reluctant to discharge pension-covered employers than uncovered employees and that the pattern of coverage across workers and firms is consistent with predictions from the firm-specific training and shirking models. Consequently, Dorsey argues that policymakers need to consider the possibility that requiring greater portability would have adverse productivity effects. His argument is, however, to some extent weakened by two aspects: first, to be efficient, pension termination penalties must be flexible in so far as rigid pension termination penalties can become obsolete and impede mobility out of declining industries. Second, an overall assessment of portability issues must also take account of the ongoing shift in favour of defined-contribution schemes, where portability in general is higher than in defined benefit schemes.#p#分页标题#e#
The main conclusion by Dorsey that the implicit contract model provides the most appropriate description of the modern labour market is also accepted by Ippolito in his influential study of the labour market effects of pension plans published in 1997. According to Ippolito (1997), developments in the pension literature are consistent with a concise model of the labour contract. Workers and the firm implicitly agree that workers will pay for a real pension, indexed to the final wage. Departure from the firm either "too early" or "too late" breaks the contract and triggers pension penalties. The pension bonds the worker's promise to stay with the firm and hence attracts those who anticipate staying for the long term (p. 17). Ippolito thus argues that the implicit contract theory is the basis for the "productivity theory of pension". By establishing a policy that returns workers' implicit pension contributions conditional on their fulfilling certain tenure, the firm has a tool to influence the tenure and retirement decisions of its work force. Ippolito, however, also points out that the implicit contract paradigm is challenged by the rapid rise of defined-contribution plans (notably the 401k plans in the US). More precisely, he argues that in fact the wage cost of defined-benefit plans are higher than hitherto considered in the literature, making them vulnerable to cheaper substitutes such as 401k plans. Further, 401k plans are not neutral to productivity in the firm: they can effect the composition of the firm's workforce by encouraging the early exit of lower-quality workers and encourage long tenure of higher-quality workers. According to Ippolito, these "sorting effects" are an important feature of the pension productivity model (p. 89).
Andrietti and Hildebrand (2001) also found that workers covered by occupational pension plans are less likely to change jobs than uncovered workers in the US, but they found no evidence that the potential pension portability losses deter mobility (p. 27). Defined contribution plans, despite of their full portability, negatively correlate to labor mobility as much as defined benefit plans (pp. 30-31). They also present evidence of "compensation premiums" in jobs covered by pension and health insurance, which they interpret as further evidence that workers simply do not leave "good jobs". They conclude that portability losses matter by themselves, i.e. by the wealth loss they impose on "job changers", rather than by the possible impact on labor mobility and the related efficiency effects. In 1986, the US enacted a tax reform that reduced in as much as 46% the average portability losses of the affected workers without showing clear signs of effects on labor mobility (pp. 30-31).
Similarly, Andrietti (2001 and 2003) could not find evidence that portability losses cause lower labor mobility in Europe. Occupational pension plans do not seems to deter job mobility in the sample of European countries analyzed in Andrietti's studies, regardless of the significant differences in pension portability among these countries. The paper attempted to support these arguments with empirical evidence by modelling the role of expected pension portability losses on individual job mobility choices in a sample of European Union Member States with different pension portability rules, and estimating the model with a new longitudinal data set derived from the first two waves of the European Community Household Panel survey. Individual job mobility status is seen as endogenously determined through a comparative evaluation of expected benefits and costs from mobility. A preliminary interpretation of the relationship between pensions, wages and mobility in each country is suggested by empirical evidence on mobility rates, conditions on pension coverage status, and mean wages for years 1994 and 1995. The studies suggested that there is evidence of a negative relationship between pension coverage and job mobility rates, being the latter much higher for workers not covered by pensions. Regarding mover/stayer wage patterns, stayers generally have higher average wages than movers, giving rise to a mover-stayer wage gap. Movers experience higher wage growth rates than stayers; the initial wage gap is thus reduced after one year, particularly for non-covered employees. This gap, however, does not account for sample selection bias, which could lead to underestimation or overestimation of the average population wage differential. There is evidence that pension covered workers, either stayers or movers, are better paid than workers without pension in both years. This could reflect either worker specific or job specific attributes. If the entire wage differential between workers with and without pension was due to individual characteristics, such as unmeasured ability, the wage on any alternative job would be identical to the current one, and no wage losses would result from a move. If wage on the current job was instead just a reflection of job specific rather than personal characteristics, identical workers would be paid more on pension jobs than on no pension jobs, either as a result of rent-sharing or because of some productivity enhancing scheme requiring efficiency wage payments.#p#分页标题#e#
Other explanation suggested the possibility that workers who prefer stable employment may self select into jobs covered by pensions and are thus unlikely to change employer. These individuals may have a low rate of subjective time discounting and a preference towards provision for old age. Research into these hypotheses has so far been supplied for the US and the UK and empirical studies of other European countries. Studies by Allen, Clark and Mc Dermed, 1993 and Ippolito, 1997 introduce self-selection as a further explanation of observed lower mobility rates among pension covered workers, i.e, those workers that prefer to move less between jobs tend to self-select into jobs that offer backloaded pension benefits.
Defined benefit pension formulas based on final salary include a "bonding" component that imposes sizeable pension wealth losses to workers who leave the firm before the end of the implicit pension contract. Pension portability losses are thus thought to act as a self-selection device inducing "stable" workers to join pension covered jobs while screening out workers who are likely to quit or to be laid off. The causation here runs in the opposite direction to the financial disincentive mechanism. The decision to join a pension-covered job is seen as endogenous and it is the "intrinsic stability" of pension-covered workers that determines their lower turnover rates. The self-selection mechanism thus allows to capture unobservable heterogeneity related to the workers' quit propensity. The mobility decision is also seen as endogenous, but driven by different determinants for workers covered by an occupational pension plan and those without pension coverage. Estimation, based on US Panel Survey on Income Dynamics (PSID) data, leads the authors to conclude that the main reason why lower turnover is observed among workers covered by pensions is the prospect of capital losses of pension wealth; whereas there is no change in turnover at the point of vesting; compensation premia accruing to pension-covered workers significantly reduce labour mobility. The expected capital loss has however little effect on the unconditional sorting of workers by pension coverage, even if there is evidence that "stable" workers self-select into pension-covered jobs on the basis of their observable characteristics.
As shown above, despite the diversity of studies on pension portability and labour mobility in the past decades, it is still unclear whether pension portability has its impact on labour mobility. Empirical evidence is far from conclusive and further research is needed, together with adequate data. In the later chapters, this thesis examines the debatable link between pension rights portability and labour mobility (both occupational and geographical mobility), by putting the results of previous researches in light of updated data on labour mobility and pension portability in most recent years. Considering the deep integration level and the dynamic process of pension reform in the European Union region, I take the European Union as a case example for this research. By that the thesis aims to provide more insights into the analysis of various determinants to labour mobility and the flexibility of labour market.#p#分页标题#e#