The Pension Crisis Discourse in the Light of the Methodology of Economics

Miryakov M.I.


In the second half of the 20th century, the demographic trends, leading to the population ageing, shaped the pension policy agenda. The population ageing argument played a crucial role in the pension reform and, more generally, in the welfare state discourse that attempted to explain the inevitability of the fall of the «old-fashioned» stateled pension systems in the long run. The paper provides a critical analysis of these ideas, classified as the «pension crisis concept». It is shown that this concept should be regarded as a tendency-law, which extrapolates one particular factor in order to show the inevitability of a crisis in the future. One of the most famous examples of the tendency-laws is the once influential idea of T.R. Malthus – that is, the «law of population» with its criticism of any attempts aimed at improving living standards of population several centuries ago. The analysis of the pension crisis concept as a tendency-law makes it possible to look more critically at today’s pension reform discourse, which directly links the population ageing to the future of pension systems. Historians of economic thought have already noticed that the ongoing debate over welfare state has much in common with the debate on the Malthusian principle of population. The paper argues that one of the central arguments of the welfare state critics and the Malthusian law share similar methodological principles. Although the pension crisis concept is the subject of serious criticism as oversimplifying reality, the demographic explanation continues to shape the political agenda of many governments all over the world. However, despite lengthy debate, the degree of influence of the population aging on the prospects of pension provisions is still a poorly researched area.


tendency-law; population ageing; social policy; pension reform; pension system crisis.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2020.04.14

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