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Document Abstract
Published: 2016

Means testing vs. universal targeting: assumptions of efficiency and affordability

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Whether social protection benefits should be assigned to all (universal) or kept only for those who meet certain criteria (targeting) remains one of the most contentious questions in social policy research. The purpose of this brief is to revisit two social policy assumptions around basic concerns of efficiency, affordability and sustainability of universal social pensions. Contrary to what many international organisations and scholars have argued, this brief forwards that universal social pensions are economically viable and efficient strategies to produce welfare and alleviate older-age income deprivations. The world clearly has the resources to implement basic social pensions on a global scale; the question is if there is also the political will to do it.

Key messages:

  • seventy-nine countries would be economically able to shift from targeted non-contributory pensions to basic universal non-contributory pensions with less than 1.2 per cent of the respective national GDPs
  • sixteen countries have means-tested/regional-tested non-contributory pensions more expensive than a hypothetical basic universal pension
  • an arbitrary threshold of “economic development” is not a limitation for implementing social pensions. At least 16 countries with a relatively low economic development have successfully implemented social pensions without targeting beneficiaries by means
  • universal social pensions are politically and economically viable and are efficient strategies to alleviate income poverty
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Authors

G. Cruz-Martinez

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