Gender and Social Security Reform: What's Fair for Women?
Aging populations are creating tremendous pressures on social security systems throughout the world, lifting the need for reform to the top of policy agendas. Proposed reforms often have different implications for men and women. At the same time, traditional family and gender roles are changing with the decline in fertility rates and the rapid rise in women's participation in the paid labor force. While trying to adapt social security systems to the fiscal demands of aging societies, policymakers face the compelling challenge of how to design pension reforms that achieve fair outcomes for women. Gender and Social Security Reform examines how different countries are attempting to meet this challenge. Drawing on comparative studies of European and Latin American countries along with a series of case studies of individual countries, the book provides insights into the gender dimensions of alternative designs for reform. All of the countries studied have recently reformed or are about to reform their pension systems, with a clear trend towards tightening the link between contributions and benefits in order to secure the long-term sustainability of pensions. The book also alerts policymakers to other issues: Should pension systems be gender-neutral or compensate for inequalities in paid and unpaid labor? Does compensation preserve gender discrimination? Are unisex life tables a reliable or fair redistributive tool for women? Or should annuities be linked directly to life expectancy, differentiated by sex and potentially other factors? Does a minimum pension guarantee risk compromising the principle of individual responsibility and work? How can recognition for caring work be balanced with work incentives? What can be done to help social security systems preserve freedom of choice in terms of work-family balance for women, men or the modem family unit as a whole? In analyzing the gender implications of recent social security policies and practices this book reframes the conventional discourse of reform. Neil Gilbert is the Chemin Professor of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent books include Changing Patterns of Social Protection (edited with Rebecca A. Van Voorhis), Welfare Reform: A Comparative Assessment of the French and U.S. Experiences (edited with Antoine Parent), and Transformation of the Welfare State.