Pension schemes and pension reforms in the Middle East and North Africa

This paper examines the economic, social and political dimensions of pension policy and pension reform in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). It begins by analysing the main deficits of the existing public pension schemes and their implications with regards to social and economic criteria. It then moves on to look into past efforts to reform pension policies in selected MENA countries, in an attempt to explain the lack of more fundamental pension reforms until now.The paper shows that the MENA countries have implemented hardly any noteworthy pension reforms in the past and argues that this reluctance is mainly due to political considerations of the ruling regimes as well as to the fact that most MENA countries have until now been able to finance the deficits of their pension schemes.

The study concludes that the prospects of reforms that go beyond simple changes in contribution rates or pension formulas remain bleak and draws lessons from the experience of MENA countries for pension reforms in other parts of the world.

This paper was prepared for the UNRISD project on Pension Funds and Economic Development.