Private pension funds in Argentina's newintegrated pension system
Argentina implemented a major reform of its pension system in 1994. The new system has a mixed public-and-private two-pillar structure. Its main elements are an unfunded, defined benefit pillar operated by the state and paying a basic pension to all workers who meet the minimum eligibility period, and a fully funded defined-contribution individual capitalization pillar managed by specially authorized companies (AFJPs). The second pillar also has a public defined-benefit component, which is operated on an unfunded basis. The new system replaced the old public pay-as-you-go pension system, which was facing immense financial pressures. The author assesses the performance of the funded component of the second pillar. He finds that: 1) The private pillar had attracted (by June, 1996) 67 percent of all workers participating in the new integrated system. It also represents 60 percent of those who are active contributors. It has attracted many younger workers and has begun to mobilize a large, fast, growing pool of long-term financial resources. 2) The AFJPs have earned very high real investment returns, offset by very high operating costs. Individual affiliates have so far earned negative real returns because of high commission charges. But in the long run, net returns are likely to be positive as assets accumulate and operating costs are better controlled. 3) Effective coverage is quite low. Affiliates represent fewer than 60 percent of eligible workers and only about 40 percent of the labor force. Fewer than 30 percent of eligible workers and only about 20 percent of the labor force actively contribute. 4) Because the new system is young, the number of beneficiaries is small, mostly recipients of survivorship and disability pensions. 5) Market concentration is high, although lower than in Chile. The top three companies account for 47 percent of affiliates and assets; the top six account for 78 percent. 6) In March, 1997, asset allocation was 51 percent government bonds, 23 percent corporate inquiries and mutual fund shares, 17 percent bank deposits, and 7 percent corporate bonds. Equity holdings share has been rising, mainly at the expense of bank deposits. 7) Real rates of return average over 15 percent a year, although high commission charges substantially reduce the net real returns to individual workers. But costs are coming down sharply as a percentage of average assets. Net real returns for a worker's full career are expected to be highly positive so long as gross investment returns remain strong. The AFJP system faces three main challenges: how to contain operating and marketing costs; how to increase effective coverage; and how to relax the draconian regulations while maintaining a stable, transparent, and safe system.
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