Universal old age pensions: Arguments at time of introduction in Canada, Mauritius and Norway
Studies indicate that universal old age pension programmes are conducive to poverty alleviation and less income inequality, but strikingly few countries have introduced universal pension programmes since New Zealand as the first country in the world introduced such a scheme in 1938. This paper wonders what arguments were expressed and were decisive for the introduction of the universal schemes that after all exist, and a first analysis of the basic arguments for establishing universal old age pensions in three selected countries is made. The three countries are Canada, Mauritius and Norway which all introduced universal pensions in the 1950s, and belong to the group of pioneering countries in this respect. Even if an idea of a “one-size-fits-all” policy is not necessarily subscribed to, it is of interest to do a comparison of arguments for one specific policy solution, universal pensions, in countries belonging to different continents, existing in different international contexts, having different cultures and traditions, being at different levels of economic development, having different political history, and which are different in territorial and population size. An overview of pension systems in all countries of the world is given, and the historical arguments for universal pension systems in the three selected countries are presented and compared. One finding is that the ambition to reduce poverty was an important motivation in two of the countries, but the main consideration cutting across all three countries was the moral aversion to means testing and the desire to respect human dignity. Another argument found in all three countries was the pragmatic one that a universal scheme would lead to a reduction of administrative cost of old age provision.
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