Social Security Programs Throughout the World: Europe, 2018

Guide to Reading the Country Summaries

This first issue in the current four-volume series of Social Security Programs Throughout the World reports on the countries of Europe.1 The combined findings of this series, which also includes volumes on Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and the Americas, are published at six-month intervals over a two-year period. Each volume highlights features of social security programs in the particular region.

This guide serves as an overview of programs in all regions. A few political jurisdictions have been excluded because they have no social security system or insufficient information was available regarding their social security legislation. In the absence of recent information, national programs reported in previous volumes may also be excluded.

In this volume on Europe, the data reported are based on laws and regulations in force in January 2018 or on the last date for which information has been received. Information for each country on types of social security programs, types of mandatory systems for retirement income, contribution rates, and demographic and other statistics related to social security is shown in Tables 1–4 beginning on page 17.

The country summaries show each system’s major features including mandatory occupational pensions and in some cases, private insurance. Separate programs in the public sector and specialized funds for such groups as agricultural workers, collective farmers, or the self-employed have not been described in any detail.

The country summaries also do not refer to international social security agreements that may be in force between two or more countries. Those agreements may modify coverage, contributions, and benefit provisions of national laws summarized in the country write-ups. Since the summary format requires brevity, technical terms have been developed that are concise as well as comparable and are applied to all programs wherever possible. The terminology may therefore differ from national concepts or usage.

Information Sources

Most of the information in this report was collated from the Social Security Programs Throughout the World survey conducted by the International Social Security Association (ISSA) in partnership with the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). This information was supplemented by data collected by the ISSA. Empirical data were provided by numerous social security institutions throughout the world. (For a listing of countries and jurisdictions that responded to the survey, see page 2.) During the compilation process, international analysts at both SSA and the ISSA examined the material for factual errors, ambiguous statements, and contradictions in material from different sources.

Box 1.
Countries in Europe that Responded to the Social Security Programs Throughout the World Survey
Czech Republic
Isle of Man
San Marino
United Kingdom

Types of Programs

The term social security in this report refers to programs established by statute that insure individuals against interruption or loss of earning power and for certain special expenditures arising from marriage, birth, or death. This definition also includes allowances to families for the support of children.

Protection of the insured person and dependents usually is extended through cash payments to replace at least a portion of the income lost as the result of old age, disability, or death; sickness and maternity; work injury; unemployment; or through services, primarily hospitalization, medical care, and rehabilitation. Measures providing cash benefits to replace lost income are usually referred to as income maintenance programs; measures that finance or provide direct services are referred to as benefits in kind.

Three broad approaches to coverage provide cash benefits under income-maintenance programs; namely, employment-related, universal, and means-tested systems. Under both the employment-related and the universal approaches, the insured, dependents, and survivors can claim benefits as a matter of right. Under means-tested approaches, benefits are based on a comparison of a person’s income or resources against a standard measure. Some countries also provide other types of coverage.


Employment-related systems, commonly referred to as social insurance systems, generally base eligibility for pensions and other periodic payments on length of employment or self-employment or, in the case of family allowances and work injuries, on the existence of the employment relationship itself. The amount of pensions (long-term payments, primarily) and of other periodic (short-term) payments in the event of unemployment, sickness, maternity, or work injury is usually related to the level of earnings before any of these contingencies caused earnings to cease. Such programs are financed entirely or largely from contributions (usually a percentage of earnings) made by employers, workers, or both, and are in most instances compulsory for defined categories of workers and their employers.

The creation of notional defined contributions (NDC) is a relatively new method of calculating benefits. NDC schemes are a variant of contributory social insurance that seek to tie benefit entitlements more closely to contributions. A hypothetical account is created for each insured person that is made up of all contributions during his or her working life and, in some cases, credit for unpaid activity such as caregiving. A pension is calculated by dividing that amount by the average life expectancy at the time of retirement and indexing it to various economic factors. When benefits are due, the individual’s notional account balance is converted into a periodic pension payment.

Some social insurance systems permit voluntary affiliation of workers, especially the self-employed. In some instances, the government subsidizes such programs to encourage voluntary participation.

The government is, pro forma, the ultimate guarantor of many benefits. In many countries, the national government participates in the financing of employment-related as well as other social security programs. The government may contribute through an appropriation from general revenues based on a percentage of total wages paid to insured workers, finance part or all of the cost of a program, or pay a subsidy to make up any deficit of an insurance fund. In some cases, the government pays the contributions for low-paid workers. These arrangements are separate from obligations the government may have as an employer under systems that cover government employees. Social security contributions and other earmarked income are kept in a dedicated fund and are shown as a separate item in government accounts. (For further details on the government’s role in financing social security, see source of funds under Old Age, Disability, and Survivors.)


Universal programs provide flat-rate cash benefits to residents or citizens, without consideration of income, employment, or means. Typically financed from general revenues, these benefits may apply to all persons with the required length of residency. Universal programs may include old-age pensions for persons over a certain age; pensions for workers with disabilities, widow(er)s, and orphans; and family allowances. Most social security systems incorporating a universal program also have a second-tier earnings-related program. Some universal programs, although receiving substantial support from income taxes, are also financed in part by contributions from workers and employers.


Means-tested programs establish eligibility for benefits by measuring individual or family resources against a calculated standard usually based on subsistence needs. Benefits are limited to applicants who satisfy a means test. The size and type of benefits awarded are determined in each case by administrative decision within the framework of the law.

The specific character of means, needs, or income tests, as well as the weight given to family resources, differ considerably from country to country. Such programs, commonly referred to as social pensions or equalization payments, traditionally are financed primarily from general revenues.

Means-tested systems constitute the sole or principal form of social security in only a few jurisdictions. In other jurisdictions, contributory programs operate in tandem with income-related benefits. In such instances, means- or income-tested programs may be administered by social insurance agencies. Means-tested programs apply to persons who are not in covered employment or whose benefits under employment-related programs, together with other individual or family resources, are inadequate to meet subsistence or special needs. Although means-tested programs can be administered at the national level, they are often administered locally.

Other Types of Programs

Three other types of programs are those delivered mainly through financial services providers (individual accounts, mandatory occupational pensions, and mandatory private insurance), publicly operated provident funds, and employer-liability systems.

Programs Delivered by Financial Services Providers

Individual account. Applies to a program where covered persons and/or employers contribute a certain percentage of earnings to the covered person’s individual account managed by a contracted public or private fund manager. Participation may be mandatory or voluntary. The responsibility to establish membership in a scheme and the option to choose a fund manager lie with the individual. The accumulated capital in the individual account is normally intended as a source of income replacement for the contingencies of retirement, disability, ill health, or unemployment. It may also be possible for eligible survivors to access the accumulated capital in the case of the insured’s death.

Contributions are assigned to an employee’s individual account. The employee, and sometimes the employer, must pay administrative fees for the management of the individual account and usually purchase a separate policy for disability and survivors insurance.

Mandatory occupational pension. Applies to a program where employers are mandated by law to provide occupational pension schemes financed by employer, and, in some cases, employee contributions. Benefits may be paid as a lump sum, annuity, or pension.

Mandatory private insurance. Applies to a program where individuals are mandated by law to purchase insurance directly from a private insurance company.

Provident Funds. These funds, which exist primarily in developing countries, are essentially compulsory savings programs in which regular contributions withheld from employees’ wages are enhanced, and often matched, by employers’ contributions. The contributions are set aside and invested for each employee in a single, publicly managed fund for later repayment to the worker when defined contingencies occur. Typically, benefits are paid in a lump sum with accrued interest, although in certain circumstances drawdown provisions enable partial access to savings prior to retirement or other defined contingencies. On retirement, some provident funds also permit beneficiaries to purchase an annuity or opt for a pension. Some provident funds provide pensions for survivors.

Employer-Liability Systems. Under these systems, workers are usually protected through labor codes that require employers, when liable, to provide specified payments or services directly to their employees. Specified payments or services can include the payment of lump-sum gratuities to the aged or disabled; the provision of medical care, paid sick leave, or both; the payment of maternity benefits or family allowances; the provision of temporary or long-term cash benefits and medical care in the case of a work injury; or the payment of severance indemnities in the case of dismissal. Employer-liability systems do not involve any direct pooling of risk, since the liability for payment is placed directly on each employer. Employers may insure themselves against liability, and in some jurisdictions such insurance is compulsory.

Format of Country Summaries

Each country summary presents information available on five branches of social security:

Old Age, Disability, and Survivors

Benefits under old age, disability, and survivor programs usually cover long-term risks, as distinct from short-term risks such as temporary incapacity resulting from sickness and maternity, work injury, or unemployment. The benefits are normally pensions payable for life or for a considerable number of years. Such benefits are usually provided as part of a single system with common financing and administration as well as interrelated qualifying conditions and benefit formulas.

The laws summarized under Old Age, Disability, and Survivors focus first on benefits providing pensions or lump-sum payments to compensate for loss of work-related income resulting from old age or permanent retirement. Such benefits are usually payable after attaining a specified statutory age. Some countries require complete or substantial retirement to become eligible for a pension; other countries pay a retirement pension at a certain age regardless of whether workers retire or not.

The second type of long-term risk for which pensions are provided is disability (referred to in some countries as invalidity). Disability may be generally defined as long-term and more or less total work impairment resulting from a nonoccupational injury or disease. (Disability caused by a work injury or occupational disease is usually compensated under a separate program; see Work Injury.)

The third type of pension is payable to dependents of insured workers or pensioners who die. (Pensions for survivors of workers injured while working are usually provided under a separate Work Injury program.)

Coverage. The extent of social security coverage in any given country is determined by a number of diverse factors, including the kind of system, sometimes the age of the system, and the degree of economic development. A program may provide coverage for the entire country or some portion of the workforce.

In principle, universal systems cover the entire population for the contingencies of old age, disability, and survivorship. A person may have to meet certain conditions, such as long-term residence or citizenship. Many countries exclude noncitizens from benefits unless there is a reciprocal agreement with the country of which they are nationals.

The extent of employment-related benefits is usually determined by the age of the system. Historically, social security coverage was provided first to government employees and military personnel, then to workers in industry and commerce, and eventually extended to the vast majority of wage earners and salaried employees through a general system. As a result, public employees (including military personnel and civil servants), teachers, and employees of public utilities, corporations, or monopolies are still covered by occupation-specific separate systems in many countries.

In many countries, special occupational systems have been set up for certain private-sector employees, such as miners, railway workers, and seamen. Qualifying conditions and benefits are often more liberal than under the general system. The risk involved in an occupation, its strategic importance for economic growth, and the economic and political strength of trade unions may have had a role in shaping the type and size of benefits offered by the particular program.

Groups that might be considered difficult to administer—family workers, household workers, day workers, agricultural workers, and the self-employed—were often initially excluded from coverage. The trend has been to extend coverage to these groups under separate programs or to bring them gradually under the general system. In some countries, noncovered workers become eligible for the right to an eventual pension if they make voluntary contributions at a specified level. Some systems also provide voluntary coverage for women who leave the labor force temporarily to have children or to raise a family, or for self-employed persons not covered by a mandatory program. Some developed countries with younger programs have constructed a unified national program, thus largely bypassing the need for developing separate industrial or agricultural funds.

Most developing countries have extended coverage gradually. Their first steps toward creating a social security system have commonly been to cover wage and salary workers against loss of income due to work injury, and then old age and, increasingly, disability.

In a number of developing countries, particularly in those that were once British colonies, this initial step has come via provident funds. Most provident funds provide coverage for wage and salary workers in the public and private sector. A few funds have exclusions based on the worker’s earnings or the size of the firm. Funds that exclude employees with earnings above a certain level from compulsory coverage may in some cases give them the option to affiliate or continue to participate voluntarily.

Source of Funds. The financing of benefits for old-age, disability, and survivor programs can come from three possible sources:

Almost all pension programs under social insurance (as distinct from provident funds or universal systems) are financed at least in part by employer and employee contributions. Many derive their funds from all three sources. Contributions are determined by applying a percentage to salaries or wages up to a certain maximum. In many cases the employer pays a larger share.

The government’s contribution may be derived from general revenues or, less commonly, from special earmarked or excise taxes (for example, a tax on tobacco, gasoline, or alcoholic beverages). Government contributions may be used in different ways to defray a portion of all expenditures (such as the cost of administration), to make up deficits, or even to finance the total cost of a program. Subsidies may be provided as a lump sum or an amount to make up the difference between employer/employee contributions and the total cost of the system. A number of countries reduce or, in some cases, eliminate contributions for the lowest-paid wage earners, financing their benefits entirely from general revenues or by the employer’s contribution.

The contribution rate apportioned between the sources of financing may be identical or progressive, increasing with the size of the wage or changing based on wage class. Where universal and earnings-related systems exist side by side, and the universal benefit is not financed entirely by the government, separate rates may exist for each program. In other instances, flat-rate weekly contributions may finance basic pension programs. These amounts are uniform for all workers of the same age and sex, regardless of earnings level. However, the self-employed may have to contribute at a higher rate than wage and salary workers, thereby making up for the employer’s share.

For administrative purposes, a number of countries assess a single overall social security contribution covering several contingencies. Benefits for sickness, work injury, unemployment, and family allowances as well as pensions may be financed from this single contribution. General revenue financing is the sole source of income in some universal systems. The contribution of the resident or citizen may be a percentage of taxable income under a national tax program. General revenues finance all or part of the means-tested supplementary benefits in many countries.

Contribution rates, as a rule, are applied to wages or salaries only up to a statutory ceiling. A portion of the wage of highly paid workers will escape taxation but will also not count in determining the benefit. In a few cases, an earnings ceiling applies for the determination of benefits but not for contribution purposes. In some countries, contribution rates are applied not to actual earnings but to a fixed amount that is set for all earnings falling within a specified range or wage class.

Qualifying Conditions. Qualifying to receive an old-age benefit is usually conditional on two requirements: attainment of a specified pensionable age and completion of a specified period of contributions or covered employment. Another common requirement is total or substantial withdrawal from the labor force. In some instances, eligibility is determined by resident status or citizenship.

Old-age benefits generally become payable between ages 60 and 65. In some countries, length-of-service benefits are payable at any age after a certain period of employment, most commonly between 30 and 40 years. In recent years, several countries have increased the age limit for entitlement, in part because of budgetary constraints arising as a consequence of demographic aging.

Many programs require the same pensionable age for women as for men. Others permit women to draw a full pension at an earlier age, even though women generally have a longer life expectancy. Although the norm has been for the differential to be about five years, there is now an emerging international trend toward equalizing the statutory retirement age.

Many programs offer optional retirement before the statutory retirement age is reached. A reduced pension, in some instances, may be claimed up to five years before the statutory retirement age. Some countries pay a full pension before the regular retirement age if the applicant meets one or more of the following conditions: work in an especially arduous, unhealthy, or hazardous occupation (for example, underground mining); involuntary unemployment for a period near retirement age; physical or mental exhaustion (as distinct from disability) near retirement age; or, occasionally, an especially long period of coverage. Some programs award old-age pensions to workers who are older than the statutory retirement age but who cannot satisfy the regular length-of-coverage requirement. Other programs provide increments to workers who have continued in employment beyond the normal retirement age.

Universal old-age pension systems usually do not require a minimum period of covered employment or contributions. However, most prescribe a minimum period of prior residence.

Some old-age pension systems credit periods during which persons, for reasons beyond their control, were not in covered employment. Credits can be awarded for reasons such as disability, involuntary unemployment, military service, education, child raising, or training. Other systems disregard these periods and may proportionately reduce benefits for each year below the required minimum. Persons with only a few years of coverage may receive a refund of contributions or a settlement in which a proportion of the full benefit or earnings is paid for each year of contribution.

The majority of old-age pensions financed through social insurance systems require total or substantial withdrawal from covered employment. Under a retirement test, the benefit may be withheld or reduced for those who continue working, depending on the amount of earnings or, less often, the number of hours worked. Universal systems usually do not require retirement from work for receipt of a pension. Provident funds pay the benefit only when the worker leaves covered employment or emigrates.

Some countries provide a number of exemptions that act to eliminate the retirement condition for specified categories of pensioners. For instance, the retirement test may be eliminated for workers who reached a specified age above the minimum pensionable age or for pensioners with long working careers in covered employment. Occupations with manpower shortages may also be exempted from the retirement test.

The principal requirements for receiving a disability benefit are loss of productive capacity after completing a minimum period of work or having met the minimum contribution requirements. Many programs grant the full disability benefit for a two-thirds loss of working capacity in the worker’s customary occupation, but this requirement may vary from one-third to 100 percent.

The qualifying period for a disability benefit is usually shorter than for an old-age benefit. Periods of three to five years of contributions or covered employment are most common. A few countries provide disability benefits in the form of an unlimited extension of ordinary cash sickness benefits.

Entitlement to disability benefits may have age limitations. The lower limit in most systems is in the teens, but it may be related to the lowest age for social insurance or employment or to the maximum age for a family allowance benefit. The upper age limit is frequently the statutory retirement age, when disability benefits may be converted to old-age benefits.

For survivors to be eligible for benefits, most programs require that the deceased worker was a pensioner, completed a minimum period of covered employment, or satisfied the minimum contribution conditions. The qualifying contribution period is often the same as that for the disability benefit. The surviving spouse and orphans may also have to meet certain conditions, such as age requirements.

Old-Age Benefits. The old-age benefit in most countries is a wage-related, periodic payment. However, some countries pay a universal fixed amount that bears no relationship to any prior earnings; others supplement their universal pension with an earnings-related pension.

Provident fund systems make a lump-sum payment, usually a refund of employer and employee contributions plus accrued interest. In programs that have individual accounts, options for retirement include purchasing an annuity, making withdrawals from an account regulated to guarantee income for an expected lifespan (programmed withdrawals), or a combination of the two (deferred annuity).

Benefits that are related to income are almost always based on average earnings. Some countries compute the average from gross earnings, including various fringe benefits; other countries compute the average from net earnings. Alternatively, some countries have opted to use wage classes rather than actual earnings. The wage classes may be based on occupations or, for administrative convenience, on earnings arranged by size using the midpoint in each step to compute the benefit.

Several methods are used to compensate for averages that may be reduced by low earnings early in a worker’s career or by periods without any credited earnings due, for example, to unemployment or military service, and for the effects of price and wage increases due to inflation. One method is to exclude from consideration a number of periods with the lowest (including zero) earnings. In many systems the period over which earnings are averaged may be shortened to the last few years of coverage, or the average may be based on years when the worker had his or her highest earnings. Other systems revalue past earnings by applying an index that usually reflects changes in national average wages or the cost of living. Some assign hypothetical wages before a certain date. Alternatively, others have developed mechanisms for automatic adjustment of workers’ wage records based on wage or price changes.

A variety of formulas are used in determining the benefit amount. Instead of a statutory minimum, some systems pay a percentage of average earnings—for instance, 35 percent or 50 percent—that is unchanged by length of coverage once the qualifying period is met. A more common practice is to provide a basic rate—for example, 30 percent of average earnings—plus an increment of 1 percent or 2 percent of earnings either for each year of coverage or for each year in excess of a minimum number of years. Several countries have a weighted benefit formula that returns a larger percentage of earnings to lower-paid workers than to higher-paid workers.

Most systems limit the size of the benefit. Many do so by establishing a ceiling on the earnings taken into account in the computation. Others establish a maximum cash amount or a maximum percentage of average earnings set, for example, at 80 percent. Some systems combine these and other, similar methods.

Most systems supplement the benefit for a wife or child. The wife’s supplement may be 50 percent or more of the basic benefit, although in some countries the supplement is payable only for a wife who has reached a specified age, has children in her care, or has a disability. It may also be payable for a dependent husband.

Minimum benefits are intended to maintain a minimum standard of living in many countries, although that objective is not always achieved. A maximum that reduces the effect large families have on benefits is commonly used to limit total benefits, including those of survivors, in the interest of the financial stability of the program.

In some countries, benefits are automatically adjusted to reflect price or wage changes. In other countries, the process is semiautomatic—the adequacy of pensions is reviewed periodically by an advisory board or other administrative body that recommends a benefit adjustment to the government, usually requiring legislative approval.

Disability Benefits. Under most programs, provisions for disability benefits for persons who are permanently disabled as the result of nonoccupational causes are very similar to those for the aged. The same basic formula usually applies for total disability as for old age—a cash amount usually expressed as a percentage of average earnings. Increments and dependents’ supplements are generally identical under the total disability and old-age programs. For persons with total disabilities, a constant-attendance supplement, for instance, 50 percent of the benefit, may be paid to those who need help on a daily basis. Partial disability benefits, if payable, are usually reduced, based on a fixed scale. The system may also provide rehabilitation and training. Some countries provide higher benefits for workers in arduous or dangerous employment.

Survivor Benefits. Most systems provide periodic benefits for survivors of covered persons or pensioners, although some pay only lump-sum benefits. Survivor benefits are generally a percentage of either the benefit paid to the deceased at death or the benefit to which the insured would have been entitled if he or she had attained pensionable age or become disabled at that time.

Survivor benefits are paid to some categories of widows under nearly all programs. The amount of a widow’s benefit usually ranges from 50 percent to 75 percent of the deceased worker’s benefit or, in some cases, 100 percent. In some countries, lifetime benefits are payable to every widow whose husband fulfills the necessary qualifying period. More commonly, the provision of widows’ benefits is confined to widows who are caring for young children, are above a specified age, or have a disability.

Lifetime benefits are ordinarily payable to aged and disabled widows. Those awarded to younger mothers, however, are usually terminated when all children have passed a certain age, unless the widow has reached a specified age or has a disability. Most widows’ benefits also terminate on remarriage, although a final lump-sum grant may be payable under this circumstance. Special provisions govern the rights of the divorced. Age limits for orphan’s benefits are in many cases the same as for children’s allowances. Many countries fix a somewhat higher age limit for orphans attending school or undergoing an apprenticeship or for those who are disabled. The age limit is usually removed for orphans with disabilities as long as their incapacity continues. Most survivor programs distinguish between half orphans (who have lost one parent) and full orphans (who have lost both parents), with the latter receiving benefits that are 50 percent to 100 percent larger than those for half orphans. Special payments are also made to orphans under the family allowance programs of some countries.

Benefits are payable under a number of programs to widowers of insured workers or pensioners. In many instances, a widower must have been financially dependent on his wife and either disabled or old enough to receive an old-age benefit at her death. A widower’s benefit is usually computed in the same way as a widow’s benefit.

Many systems also pay benefits to other surviving close relatives, such as parents and grandparents, but only in the absence of qualifying widows, widowers, or children. The maximum total benefit to be split among survivors is usually between 80 percent and 100 percent of the benefit of the deceased.

Administrative Organization. Responsibility for administration often rests with semiautonomous institutions or funds. These agencies are usually subject to general supervision by a ministry or government department but otherwise are largely self-governing, headed by a tripartite board that includes representatives of workers, employers, and the government. Some boards are bipartite with representatives of workers and employers only or of workers and the government. Where coverage is organized separately for different occupations, or for wage earners and salaried employees or self-employed workers, each program usually has a separate institution or fund. In other cases, the administration of benefits is placed directly in the hands of a government ministry or department.

Sickness and Maternity

Sickness benefit programs are generally of two types: cash sickness benefits, which are paid when short-term illnesses prevent work, and health care benefits, which are provided in the form of medical, hospital, and pharmaceutical benefits. Some countries maintain a separate program for cash maternity benefits, which are paid to working mothers before and after childbirth. In most countries, however, maternity benefits are administered as part of the cash sickness program. (Benefits provided as a result of work injury or occupational disease are provided either under work injury or sickness programs. Details of the benefits are discussed under Work Injury.)

Historically, cash sickness and maternity benefits as well as health care were often administered under the same branch of social security. For this reason, these programs are grouped together in the country summaries.

Another important reason for grouping these numerous benefits together is that each deals with the risk of temporary incapacity. Sometimes, such benefits are furnished as part of a single system with common financing and administration. Many countries provide medical care services for sickness and maternity as an integral part of the health insurance system and some link those services directly with the provision of cash benefits. In other instances, however, maternity cash grants are covered under family allowance programs. In many cases, medical care services are provided under a public health program, independent of the social insurance system. Where this dual approach is followed, it has been indicated in the summaries.

Where health care is dispensed directly by the government or its agencies and the principal source of funds is general revenue, the cash benefit program usually continues to be administered on an insurance basis, funded by payroll contributions, and merged in some instances with other aspects of the social insurance system such as old age and disability. However, countries that deliver health care primarily through private facilities and private funding are also likely to have developed separate programs. Where the social security program operates its own medical facilities, both types of benefits are usually administered jointly.

Benefits designed to assist in the provision of long-term care, often at home, are generally supported by a special tax. Benefit levels are normally set to the level of care required. These benefits may be payable in cash, as care services, or as a combination of the two.

Coverage. The proportion of the population covered by sickness programs varies considerably from country to country, in part because of the degree of economic development. Coverage for medical care and cash benefits is generally identical in countries where both types of benefits are provided through the same branch of social insurance. In a number of systems, particularly in developing countries, health care insurance extends only to employees in certain geographic areas. A common procedure is to start the program in major urban centers, then extend coverage gradually to other areas. Both cash sickness and health care programs may exclude agricultural workers, who, in some countries, account for a major proportion of the working population. Where a health insurance system (as distinguished from a national health service program) exists, most workers earning below a certain ceiling participate on a compulsory basis. Others, such as the self-employed, may be permitted to affiliate on a voluntary basis. In several countries, higher-paid employees are specifically excluded from one or both forms of sickness insurance, although some voluntary participation is usually permitted.

Many countries include pensioners as well as other social security beneficiaries under the medical care programs, in some cases without cost to the pensioner. Elsewhere, pensioners pay a percentage of their pension or a fixed premium for all or part of the medical care coverage. Special sickness insurance systems may be maintained for certain workers, such as railway employees, seamen, and public employees.

Where medical care coverage is provided through a national health service rather than social insurance, the program is usually open in principle to virtually all residents. However, restrictions on services to aliens may apply.

Source of Funds. Many countries have merged the financing of sickness programs with that of other social insurance benefits and collect only a single contribution from employees and employers. More commonly, however, employees and employers contribute directly to a separate program that includes both health care and cash benefits for sickness and maternity. Some countries also provide a government contribution. Where medical care is available to residents, generally through some type of national health service, the government usually bears at least the major part of the cost from general revenues.

Qualifying Conditions. Generally, a person becoming ill must be gainfully employed, incapacitated for work, and not receiving regular wages or sick-leave payments from the employer to be eligible for cash sickness benefits. Most programs require claimants to meet a minimum period of contribution or to have some history of work attachment prior to the onset of illness to qualify. Some countries, however, have eliminated the qualifying period.

The length of the qualifying period for cash sickness benefits may range from less than one month to six months or more and is ordinarily somewhat longer for cash maternity benefits. Usually the period must be fairly recent, such as during the last six or 12 months. In the case of medical benefits, a qualifying period is usually not required. In instances where such a requirement does exist, it is generally of a short duration. Most programs providing medical services to dependents of workers, as well as to the workers themselves, do not distinguish in their qualifying conditions between the two types of beneficiaries. A few programs require a longer period of covered employment before medical services are provided to dependents.

Cash Benefits. The cash sickness benefit is usually 50 percent to 75 percent of current average earnings, frequently with supplements for dependents. Most programs, however, fix a maximum benefit amount or do so implicitly through a general earnings ceiling for contributions and benefits. Benefits may be reduced when beneficiaries are hospitalized at the expense of the social insurance system.

A waiting period of two to seven days is imposed under most cash sickness programs. As a result, benefits may not be payable if an illness or injury lasts for only a few days. Similarly, in the case of a prolonged inability to work, benefits may not be payable for the first few days. Under some programs, however, benefits are retroactively paid for the waiting period when the disability continues beyond a specified time, commonly two to three weeks. A waiting period reduces administrative and benefit costs by excluding many claims for short illnesses or injuries during which relatively little income is lost and can also help reduce the potential for the inappropriate use of the system by workers. In other programs, employers are required to pay benefits for a certain number of days before social insurance payments begin.

The period during which a worker may receive benefits for a single illness or injury, or in a given 12-month period, is ordinarily limited to 26 weeks. In some instances, however, benefits may be drawn for considerably longer and even for an unlimited duration. A number of countries permit the agency to extend the maximum entitlement period to 39 or 52 weeks in specific cases. In most countries, when cash sickness benefits are exhausted, the recipient is paid a disability benefit if the incapacity continues.

Cash maternity benefits are usually payable for a specified period, both before and after childbirth. A woman is almost always required to stop working while receiving maternity benefits, and usually she must use the prenatal and postnatal medical services provided by the system. In some countries, cash maternity benefits are also payable to working men who stay home to care for a newborn child while the mother returns to work. Cash payments may also be available for a parent, usually the mother, who is absent from work to care for a sick child under a specified age.

The proportion of earnings payable as a cash maternity benefit differs considerably from country to country but, like cash sickness benefits, is usually between 50 percent and 75 percent of current earnings. However, in a number of countries, maternity benefits are set at 100 percent of wages. Benefit payments usually start approximately six weeks before the expected date of childbirth and end six to eight weeks afterward.

A nursing allowance—usually 20 percent or 25 percent of the regular maternity benefit and payable for up to six months or longer—may be provided in addition to the basic cash maternity benefit. A grant for the purchase of a layette—clothes and other essentials for the newborn baby—or the provision of a layette itself is furnished under some programs. Finally, a lump-sum maternity grant may be paid on the birth of each child. The wives of insured men may be eligible for this grant. Similar benefits may be provided under the family allowance program.

Medical Benefits. Medical services usually include at least general practitioner care, some hospitalization, and essential drugs. Services of specialists, surgery, maternity care, some dental care, a wider range of medicine, and certain appliances are commonly added. Transportation of patients and home-nursing services may be included.

There are three principal methods of meeting the cost of health care: direct payment to providers by the public system or its agents, reimbursement of patients, and direct provision of medical care. These methods may be used in different combinations and may be varied for different kinds of services.

Under direct payment, the social security or public medical care system pays providers directly for services. Patients usually have little or no direct financial dealings with the care provider. Payments for care are commonly made based on contracts with service providers or the professional groups representing them, such as practitioner or hospital associations. Remuneration may take the form of a specified fee for each service, a capitation payment in return for providing all necessary services to a given group of persons, or a salary.

Under the reimbursement method, the patient makes the initial payment and is reimbursed by social security for at least part of the cost. A maximum is sometimes placed on the refund, expressed as a percentage of the bill or a flat amount that can vary with the nature of the service as stipulated in a schedule of fees. The ceiling on medical bills can be placed on the provider when presenting the bill or on the patient when applying for reimbursement. In the latter case, the patient may be reimbursed for only a small portion of the bill.

Under the direct-provision method, the social security system or the government owns and operates its own medical facilities, largely manned by salaried staff. Countries using this method may contract for services of public or private providers. The patient normally pays no fee for most of these services, except insofar as part of the social security contribution may be allotted toward health care funding.

Regardless of the funding method used, all national health care programs provide for at least a small degree of cost-sharing by patients, usually on the assumption that such charges discourage overuse. Thus, the patient either pays part of the cost to the provider or social security agency or receives less than full reimbursement. Even under the direct-provision method, with its emphasis on basically free medical services to the whole population, patients are generally required to pay a small fixed fee per medical treatment or prescription or for each day of hospitalization.

Some health care systems have no limit on how long medical care may be provided. Other systems fix a maximum, such as 26 weeks, for services provided for any given illness. Some set limits only on the duration of hospitalization paid for by social security. Where time limits are imposed, they may be extended.

Maternity Care. Prenatal, obstetric, and postnatal care for working women is provided in most countries under the medical services program. Obstetric care is sometimes limited to the services of a midwife, although a doctor is usually available in case of complications. Care in a maternity home or hospital, as well as essential drugs, are ordinarily furnished where necessary.

Medical Care for Dependents. When medical benefits for insured workers are provided through social insurance, similar services are typically furnished to their spouses and young children (and, in some cases, other adults or young relatives living with and dependent on the insured). Maternity care is generally provided to the wife of an insured man.

In some countries, however, medical services available to dependents are more limited than those provided to insured workers or heads of families. Dependents may be subject to a shorter maximum duration for hospital stays, for example, and may have to pay a larger percentage of the cost of certain services such as medicine.

Administrative Organization. The administrative organization for the sickness and maternity program is similar to that of the old-age, disability, and survivor program in many countries. Most commonly, such programs are administered by some form of national social security institution. Under some systems, social security agencies own and operate their own medical facilities, furnishing at least part of the services available under their programs.

In most countries with a national health insurance program, responsibility for detailed administration lies with semiautonomous, nongovernment health funds or associations. All workers covered by the program must join one of these funds.

Each health fund usually requires government approval and must satisfy certain requirements. Workers and, in some countries, employers participate in the election of governing bodies. The funds normally collect contributions within minimum and maximum limits. Funds may also receive government subsidies related to their expenditures or to the number of affiliated members.

National law usually prescribes the minimum (and, in some cases, the maximum) cash benefits and medical services the health funds may provide. In a few countries, individual funds may determine what specific health care benefits and services to provide and arrange to furnish medical care to their members. This arrangement can involve delivery through contracts with care and service providers in the region.

Less commonly, government departments are responsible for the actual provision of medical services, usually through a national health service program. The administrative responsibility for delivering medical services in some countries is often separated from the administration of cash benefit programs, which tend to be linked with other types of social security benefits.

Work Injury

The oldest type of social security—the work injury program—provides compensation for work-connected injuries and occupational illnesses. Such programs usually furnish short- and long-term benefits, depending on both the duration of the incapacity and the age of survivors. Work injury benefits nearly always include cash benefits and medical services. Most countries attempt to maintain separate work injury programs that are not linked directly with other social security measures. In some countries, however, work injury benefits are paid under special provisions of the general social security programs. Both types of programs are dealt with under Work Injury.

Types of Systems. There are two basic types of work injury systems: social insurance systems that use a public fund, and various forms of private or semiprivate arrangements required by law. In most countries, work injury programs operate through a central public fund, which may or may not be part of the general social insurance system. All employers subject to the program must pay contributions to the public carrier, which in turn pays the benefits.

Countries that rely primarily on private arrangements require employers to insure their employees against the risk of employment injury. However, in some of these countries, only private insurance is available. In the remainder, a public fund does exist, but employers are allowed the option of insuring with either a private carrier or the public fund.

The premiums charged by private or mutual insurance companies for work injury protection usually vary depending on the experience of work accidents in different undertakings or industries, and the cost of protection may vary widely. In some countries, however, experience rating has been eliminated, and all employers contribute to the program at one rate.

In other instances, workers’ compensation laws simply impose on employers a liability to pay direct compensation to injured workers or their survivors. Employers covered under such laws may simply pay benefits from their own funds as injuries occur or may voluntarily purchase a private or mutual insurance contract to protect themselves against risk.

Coverage. Work injury programs commonly cover wage and salary workers and exclude the self-employed. The programs of some of the more highly industrialized nations cover practically all employees. However, many countries either exclude all agricultural employees or cover only those who operate power-driven machinery. Some programs also exclude employees of small enterprises.

Source of Funds. Work injury benefits are financed primarily by employer contributions, reflecting the traditional assumption that employers should be liable when their employees suffer work injuries. Where certain elements of the work injury program are meshed with one or more of the other branches of the social insurance system, however, financing usually involves contributions from employees, employers, and the government. Another exception occurs in countries that provide medical treatment for work-connected illnesses under their ordinary public medical care programs.

Work Injury Benefits. Work injury programs provide cash benefits and medical benefits. Cash benefits under work injury programs may be subdivided into three types: benefits for temporary disability, those for permanent total disability, and those for permanent partial disability. No qualifying period of coverage or employment is ordinarily required for entitlement to work injury benefits. The concept of work-connected injury has gradually been liberalized in a number of countries to cover injuries occurring while commuting to and from work.

Temporary disability benefits are usually payable from the start of an incapacity caused by a work injury, though some programs require a waiting period of one to three days. Benefits normally continue for a limited period, such as 26 to 52 weeks, depending on the duration of incapacity. If incapacity lasts longer, the temporary disability benefit may be replaced by a permanent disability benefit. In some systems, temporary benefits may continue for an extended period, particularly if the temporary and permanent benefit amounts are identical.

The temporary benefit is nearly always a fraction of the worker’s average earnings during a period immediately before injury, usually at least one-third to one-half. A ceiling may be placed on the earnings considered in computing a benefit. Temporary benefits under work injury programs may be significantly higher than in the case of ordinary sickness. Benefits are reduced under some programs when a worker is hospitalized.

The second type of cash work injury benefit is provided in cases of permanent total disability. Generally, it becomes payable immediately after the temporary disability benefit ceases, based on a medical evaluation that the worker’s incapacity is both permanent and total. The permanent total disability benefit is usually payable for life, unless the worker’s condition changes. A minority of programs, however, pay only a single lump-sum grant of several years of wages.

The permanent total disability benefit usually amounts to two-thirds to three-fourths of the worker’s average earnings before injury, somewhat higher than for ordinary disability benefits. In addition, unlike ordinary disability benefits, the rate usually does not vary based on the length of employment before the injury. Supplements may be added for dependents and for pensioners requiring the constant attendance of another person, in which case benefits may exceed former earnings. In some countries, the benefits of apprentices or new labor force entrants who become permanently disabled as a result of work-connected injury or disease are based on hypothetical lifetime wages or on the wage of an average worker in the particular industry. This mechanism overcomes the problem of establishing a lifetime benefit based on a very low starting wage.

The third type of cash work injury benefit is provided when permanent partial disability results in a worker’s loss of partial working or earning capacity. It is usually a portion of the full benefit corresponding to the percentage loss of capacity. Alternatively, permanent partial disability benefits may be paid in the form of a lump-sum grant. Partial disability payments are generally smaller and are usually stipulated in a schedule of payments for particular types of injuries. Some systems pay the benefit as a lump sum when the extent of disability is below a stated percentage, such as 20 percent.

Medical and hospital care and rehabilitation services are also provided to injured workers. Nearly always free, they may include a somewhat wider range of services than the general sickness program. Ordinarily, they are available until the worker recovers or the condition stabilizes. In some countries, however, free care is limited, the amount being based on the duration of services or their total cost.

Survivor Benefits. Most work injury programs also provide benefits to survivors. These benefits are customarily payable to a widow, regardless of her age, until her death or remarriage; to a widower with a disability; and to orphans below specified age limits. If the benefit is not exhausted by the immediate survivors’ claims, dependent parents or other relatives may be eligible for small benefits. No minimum period of coverage is required.

Survivor benefits are computed as a percentage of either the worker’s average earnings immediately before death or the benefit payable (or potentially payable) at death. These percentages are typically larger than those for survivor benefits under the general program and do not normally vary with the length of covered employment. They are usually about one-third to one-half of the worker’s average earnings for a widow, about half as much for each half orphan, and about two-thirds as much for each full orphan. A limit is commonly placed on the combined total of survivor benefits.

Not all countries, however, provide work injury benefits to survivors, and some do not differentiate between survivors in this category and survivors entitled to benefits under other social insurance programs. Some schemes pay only a lump sum equal to the worker’s earnings over a specified number of years. Most systems also pay a funeral grant equivalent to a fixed sum or a percentage of the worker’s earnings.

Administrative Organization. The functions involved in administering work injury programs differ widely between countries in which employers are not required to insure or can insure with private carriers and those in which a public agency or fund has sole responsibility for both collecting contributions and paying benefits.


Benefits in this category provide compensation for the loss of income resulting from involuntary unemployment. In some countries, these programs are independent of other social security measures and may be closely linked with employment services. In other countries, the unemployment programs are included with social security measures covering other short-term risks, although employment services may continue to verify unemployment and assist in a job search.

Unemployment programs, which exist mainly in industrialized countries, are compulsory and fairly broad in scope in many countries. Some countries restrict benefits to those who satisfy a means or income test. In addition to the programs offering scheduled payments, a number of countries provide lump-sum grants, payable by either a government agency or the employer; other countries provide individual severance accounts, providing total benefits equal to the value of accumulated capital in the individual account. In addition, employers in many instances are required to pay lump-sum severance indemnities to discharged workers.

Coverage. About half of the compulsory unemployment programs cover the majority of employed persons, regardless of the type of industry. Coverage under the remaining programs is limited to workers in industry and commerce. A few exclude salaried employees earning more than a specified amount. Some have special provisions covering temporary and seasonal employees. Several countries have special occupational unemployment programs, most typically for workers in the building trades, dockworkers, railway employees, and seafarers.

Voluntary insurance systems are limited to industries in which labor unions have established unemployment funds. Membership in these funds is usually compulsory for union members in a covered industry and may be open on a voluntary basis to nonunion employees. Uninsured workers, such as recent school graduates or the self-employed, for example, may be eligible for a government-subsidized assistance benefit when they become unemployed.

Source of Funds. The methods used to finance unemployment insurance are usually based on the same contributory principles as for other branches of social insurance—contributions amounting to a fixed percentage of covered wages are paid on a scheduled basis. In many cases, the government also grants a subsidy, particularly for extended benefits.

Unemployment insurance contributions are shared equally between employees and employers in many countries. Alternatively, the entire contribution may be made by the employer. However, government subsidies may be quite large, amounting to as much as two-thirds of the program’s expenditures. Means-tested unemployment assistance programs are financed entirely by governments, with no employer or employee contribution.

Qualifying Conditions. To be entitled to unemployment benefits, a worker must be involuntarily unemployed and have completed a minimum period of contributions or covered employment. The most common qualifying period is six months of coverage within the year before employment ceased. In a number of industrialized countries, however, students recently out of school who are unable to find jobs may be eligible for unemployment benefits, even without a work record. This benefit provides a transition from school to work, particularly in periods of recession.

Nearly all unemployment insurance programs, as well as those providing unemployment assistance, require that applicants be capable of, and available for, work. An unemployed worker, therefore, is usually ineligible for unemployment benefits when incapacitated or otherwise unable to accept a job offer. Usually, the unemployed worker must register for work at an employment office and report regularly for as long as payments continue. This close linkage between unemployment benefits and placement services ensures that benefits will be paid only after the person has been informed of any current job opportunities and been found unsuitable.

An unemployed worker who refuses an offer of a suitable job without good cause usually will have benefits temporarily or permanently suspended. Most programs stipulate that the job offered must have been suitable for the worker. The definitions of suitable employment vary considerably. Generally, the criteria include the rate of pay for the job being offered in relation to previous earnings; distance from the worker’s home; relationship to the worker’s previous occupation, capabilities, and training; and the extent to which the job may involve dangerous or unhealthy work. In some countries, long-term unemployed workers may also be obliged to undertake employment retraining programs. Some countries also provide the unemployed with access to educational placements. If an unemployed worker refuses a place on a retraining program or fails, without good cause, to attend an educational placement, benefits can be temporarily or permanently suspended.

An unemployed worker may satisfy all of the qualifying conditions for a benefit but still be temporarily or permanently disqualified. Nearly all unemployment systems disqualify a worker who left voluntarily without good cause, was dismissed because of misconduct, or participated in a labor dispute leading to a work stoppage that caused the unemployment. The period of disqualification varies considerably, from a few weeks to permanent disqualification.

Unemployment Benefits. Weekly benefits are usually a percentage of average wages during a recent period. A system of wage classes rather than a single fixed percentage is used in some countries. The basic rate of unemployment benefits is usually between 40 percent and 75 percent of average earnings. However, a ceiling on the wages used for benefit computations or maximum benefit provisions may considerably narrow the range within which the basic percentage of wages applies.

Flat-rate amounts are sometimes payable instead of graduated benefits that vary with past wages and customarily differ only based on the family status or, occasionally, the age of the worker. Supplements for a spouse and children are usually added to the basic benefit of unemployed workers who are heads of families. These supplements are either flat-rate amounts or an additional percentage of average earnings.

Most countries have a waiting period of several days before unemployment benefits become payable to reduce the administrative burden of dealing with a very large number of small claims. Most waiting periods are between three and seven days. Some programs have a waiting period for each incident of unemployment, and others limit eligibility to once a year. Longer waiting periods may be prescribed for certain workers, such as the seasonally employed.

Most countries place a limit on the period during which unemployment benefits may be continuously drawn. Typically, this limit varies from eight to 36 weeks but may be longer in certain cases.

Duration of benefits may also depend on the length of the preceding period of contribution or coverage under the program. That criterion may reduce the maximum duration of unemployment benefits for workers with brief work histories. However, workers with a long history of coverage may, under some programs, have their benefit period extended well beyond the ordinary maximum.

Many unemployed workers who exhaust the right to ordinary benefits continue to receive some assistance, provided their means or incomes are below specified levels. Recipients are usually required to continue registering and reporting at an employment exchange. Some countries that have unemployment assistance but no insurance program do not place any limit on the duration of payments. A number of countries require that insured workers approaching retirement age who have been out of work for a specified period be removed from the unemployment rolls and granted a regular old-age benefit.

Administrative Organization. Unemployment insurance systems may be administered by government departments or self-governing institutions that are usually managed by representatives of insured persons, employers, and the government.

Unemployment insurance and placement service programs usually maintain a close administrative relationship that ensures that benefits are paid only to workers who are registered for employment. At the same time, this liaison increases the effectiveness of the placement services by providing an incentive, through payment of benefits, for unemployed persons to register and report regularly.

Some countries have merged the administration of unemployment insurance and employment service programs, especially at the lower administrative levels where claims are received and benefits are paid by the local employment office. Other countries require persons to register with a local employment office, but the receipt of claims and payment of benefits are handled by a separate insurance office.

In addition to providing an income for the unemployed, many governments have elaborate measures to prevent or counteract unemployment. The typical procedure is for government employment services to work with industry to promote occupational and geographic mobility of labor and to minimize unemployment caused by economic or technological developments; they do that by subsidizing the retraining and relocation of workers in industries that are declining or being restructured. Governments may grant tax and other incentives to industry to locate in areas of high unemployment, or they may allocate funds to create jobs in anticipation of periods of seasonal unemployment.

Family Allowances

The general purpose of family allowance programs is to provide additional income for families with young children to meet at least part of the added costs of their support. These programs may either be integrated with other social security measures or kept entirely separate. In this report, family allowances primarily include regular cash payments to families with children. In some countries, they also include school grants, birth grants, maternal and child health services, minimum income guarantees, and allowances for adult dependents.

Most industrialized countries have family allowance programs that originated in Europe in the 19th century when some large companies began paying premiums to workers with large families. The idea spread gradually, and several European countries enacted programs during the 1920s and 1930s. Most programs in operation today, however, have been in place since 1945.

A relatively new trend in many developing countries has been the emergence of cash transfers as an instrument to alleviate poverty and invest in human capital. In this report, these benefits are classified as family allowances since they are generally paid to families with children. Usually financed from taxation, cash transfers are almost always means tested, and the receipt of benefits may be tied to a given set of behavioral conditions, such as school attendance or meeting basic health and nutritional requirements.

Types of Systems and Coverage. Family allowance programs are generally of three types: universal, employment-related, and social assistance. The first category, in principle, provides allowances to all resident families with a specified number of children. The second category provides allowances to all wage and salary workers and, in some cases, to self-employed and nonemployed persons. Most employment-related programs continue to pay family allowances to insured persons with dependent children in their care when they retire or are temporarily off the job and receiving sickness, unemployment, work injury, disability, or other benefits. Employment-related family programs also pay allowances to widows of social security beneficiaries. The third category provides allowances to persons or households whose resources fall below a calculated standard, usually based on subsistence needs.

Source of Funds. The differences in family allowance programs are reflected in the methods used for financing. In universal and social assistance systems, the entire cost is usually covered by general revenue, although some programs may be financed with earmarked taxes or solidarity transfers from contributory programs. By contrast, countries linking eligibility with employment meet the cost of allowances entirely or in considerable part from employer contributions, usually at a uniform percentage-of-payroll rate. If employer contributions do not cover the entire cost, the remainder is usually met from a government subsidy. Few countries require an employee contribution toward family allowances, although some require self-employed persons to contribute.

Eligibility. Eligibility is commonly related to the size of the family and, in some cases, to family income. Many countries pay allowances beginning with the first child. In addition, some countries pay an allowance for a nonemployed wife or other adult dependent, even if there are no children.

In some countries, families with only one child are ineligible. Age requirements vary but are usually tied to the last year of school or the minimum working age, which are often the same and fall somewhere between ages 14 and 18. Under most programs, the continuation of schooling, apprenticeship, or vocational training qualifies a child for an extension of the age limit. In the case of children with disabilities, many countries extend the age limit beyond that for continued education or pay allowances indefinitely.

Benefits. Whether a program pays a uniform rate for all children or an increasing or decreasing amount for each additional child may reflect the history or the intent of the program. The allowance structure may vary, for example, depending on whether the primary intent is to provide assistance, stimulate population growth, or promote human capital. The allowance is often a uniform amount for every child, regardless of the number of children in a family. In other countries, the allowance in most of the other countries increases for each additional child; the payment for a fifth child, for example, may be considerably larger than that for the first or second child. In a few countries, the allowance for each child diminishes or ceases with the addition of children beyond a certain number. In some countries, family allowances (and tax exemptions for dependent family members) have been replaced or supplemented by credits or other forms of a negative income tax.

Administrative Organization. In countries where family allowances are universal or targeted to the poorest households, the program is usually administered by a government ministry, department, or semiautonomous agency. Where allowances are payable mainly to families of employed persons and financed primarily from employer contributions, the administration may be by a semiautonomous agency under public supervision. Equalization funds may handle the program’s financial operations. Each employer pays family allowances to its employees with their wages. The firm then settles with the local fund only the surplus or deficit of contributions due, after deducting allowances the firm has paid. A similar procedure of settling only surpluses or deficits is followed by the local funds in relation to the regional equalization funds under whose supervision they operate. The equalization process makes it possible to fix a uniform contribution rate for all employers, regardless of the number of children in their employees’ families. It also eliminates any effect allowances might have on inducing employers to discriminate in hiring workers with children.


1 The names of the countries in this report are those used by the U.S. Department of State. The names of the countries, as reproduced on the ISSA website, reflect those used by the United Nations. The term country has been used throughout the volume even though in some instances the term jurisdiction may be more appropriate.

Table 1. Social security programs, by country and type
Country Old age, disability, and survivors Sickness and maternity Work injury Unemployment Family allowances
Cash sickness benefits Cash maternity benefits Medical benefits
Albania X X X X X X X
Andorra X X X X X X X
Austria X X X X X X X
Belarus X X X X X X X
Belgium X X X X X X X
Bulgaria X X X X X X X
Croatia X X X X X X X
Cyprus X X X X X X X
Czech Republic X X X X X X X
Denmark X X X X a X X X
Estonia X X X X a X X X
Finland X X X X X X X
France X X X X X X X
Germany X X X X X X X
Greece X X X X X X X
Guernsey X X X X a X X X
Hungary X X X X a X X X
Iceland X X X X X X X
Ireland X X X X X X X
Isle of Man X X X X X X X
Italy X X X X X X X
Jersey X X X X X X X
Latvia X X X X X X X
Liechtenstein X X X X X X X
Lithuania X X X X X X X
Luxembourg X X X X X X X
Malta X X X X X X X
Moldova X X X X X X X
Monaco X X X X X b X X
Netherlands X X X X a X X X
Norway X X X X X X X
Poland X X X X X X X
Portugal X X X X X X X
Romania X X X X X X X
Russia X X X X a X X X
San Marino X X X X X X X
Serbia X X X X X X X
Slovakia X X X X a X X X
Slovenia X X X X X X X
Spain X X X X X X X
Sweden X X X X X X X
Switzerland X X X X X X X
Turkey X X X X X X  
Ukraine X X X X X X X
United Kingdom X X X X X X X
SOURCE: The country summaries in this volume.
a. Coverage is provided under other programs.
b. Coverage is provided under France's program.
Table 2. Mandatory old-age income security programs, by country and type
Country Contributory Non-contributory Provident funds a Occupational pensions Individual accounts
Flat-rate Earnings-related Means-tested Universal
Albania   X X        
Andorra   X X        
Austria   X X        
Belarus b X b X X        
Belgium   X X        
Bulgaria   X X       X
Croatia   X         X
Cyprus   X X        
Czech Republic b X b X          
Denmark   X   c X      
Estonia b X b X X       X
Finland   X X c X      
France   X X     X  
Germany   X X        
Greece   X X X      
Guernsey X            
Hungary   X          
Iceland     X c X   X  
Ireland X   X        
Isle of Man X X X        
Italy   d X X        
Jersey X            
Latvia   X X       X
Liechtenstein   X       X  
Lithuania b X b X X        
Luxembourg b, d X b, d X          
Malta X X X X      
Moldova   X X        
Monaco   X X        
Netherlands X   X        
Norway   X   c X   X  
Poland b X b, d X         c X
Portugal   X X        
Romania   X         X
Russia b X b X X       X
San Marino b X b X         X
Serbia   X          
Slovakia   d X         X
Slovenia   X          
Spain   X X        
Sweden   X   c X     X
Switzerland b X b X       X  
Turkey   X          
Ukraine   X X        
United Kingdom X X X        
SOURCE: The country summaries in this volume.
NOTES: The types of mandatory old-age income programs are defined as follows:
Contributory flat-rate pension: A pension amount that is independent of earnings, but can vary according to length of service, residency, or other factors.. It is financed by payroll tax contributions from employees, employers, or both.
Contributory earnings-related pension: A pension that is based on earnings. It is financed by payroll tax contributions from employees, employers, or both.
Non-contributory means-tested pension: A pension paid to eligible persons whose own or family income, assets, or both fall below certain limits. It is generally financed through government contributions, with no contributions from employers or employees.
Non-contributory universal pension: A pension paid to eligible persons based primarily on residency and not earnings or financial means. It is generally financed through government contributions, with no contributions from employers or employees.
Provident funds: Employee and employer contributions are set aside for each employee in publicly managed special funds. Benefits are generally paid as a lump sum with accrued interest.
Occupational pensions: Employers are required by law to provide private occupational retirement schemes financed by employer and, in some cases, employee contributions. Benefits are paid as a lump sum, annuity, or pension.
Individual accounts: Employees and, in some cases, employers must contribute a certain percentage of earnings to an individual account managed by a public or private fund manager chosen by the employee. The accumulated capital in the individual account is used to purchase an annuity, make programmed withdrawals, or a combination of the two and may be paid as a lump sum.
a. No country in Europe has a provident fund. The column in this table is to facilitate comparisons with countries in other regions.
b. The pension formula contains a flat-rate component and an earnings-related element.
c. A universal pension is paid regardless of earnings or contributions, but the amount may vary. In certain countries, the universal pension may be reduced or eliminated if income from employment or other pensions exceed certain limits.
d. The government provides a guaranteed minimum pension.
Table 3. Demographic and other social security-related statistics, by country, 2016–2018
Country Total population (millions) Percentage 65 or older Dependency ratio (percentage) a Life expectancy at birth (years) Statutory pensionable age Early pensionable age b GDP per capita (PPP)
Men Women Men Women Men Women
Albania 2.87 13.2 44.1 76.4 80.5 65 60.66 62 57.66 12,021
Andorra 0.077 15.6 42.9 80.7 85.2 65 65 61 61 c 49,900
Austria 8.81 19.2 49.9 78.5 83.4 65 60 62 58 52,557
Belarus 9.51 14.8 46.1 68.9 79.0 61 56 d d 18,848
Belgium 11.37 18.6 55.4 78.7 83.4 65 65 63 63 47,561
Bulgaria 7.08 20.8 53.9 71.2 78.2 64.08 61.17 63.08 60.17 20,329
Croatia 4.13 19.7 52.5 74.9 81.3 65 62 60 57 25,264
Cyprus 1.18 13.4 43.4 78.3 82.7 65 65 63 63 34,503
Czech Republic 10.59 19.0 52.4 75.6 81.2 63.17 62.67 60.17 59.67 36,916
Denmark 5.77 19.7 56.6 78.9 82.6 65 65 d d 50,541
Estonia 1.32 19.5 55.8 73.2 82.5 63.5 63.5 60.5 60.5 31,638
Finland 5.51 21.2 60.3 79.0 84.7 65 65 63 63 45,192
France 67.12 19.7 60.8 79.2 85.5 62 62 d d 42,779
Germany 82.70 21.5 52.7 78.3 83.1 65.58 65.58 63 63 50,716
Greece 10.76 20.4 52.9 78.5 83.7 67 67 62 62 27,809
Guernsey 0.067 19.6 51.7 79.9 85.4 65 65 d d e 52,500
Hungary 9.78 18.6 49.0 72.3 79.0 63.5 63.5 d d 28,375
Iceland 0.341 14.4 52.7 81.2 83.8 67 67 65 65 53,518
Ireland 4.81 13.9 55.2 79.9 83.4 66 66 d d 76,305
Isle of Man 0.084 20.4 57.8 79.6 83.2 65 63 d d e 84,600
Italy 60.55 23.0 57.6 80.3 84.9 66.58 66.58 d d 39,817
Jersey 0.099 16.3 48.3 79.5 84.6 65 65 63 63 56,600
Latvia 1.94 19.8 54.2 69.7 79.6 63.25 63.25 61.25 61.25 27,598
Liechtenstein 0.038 17.4 48.5 80.9 84.5 65 65 60 60 f 139,100
Lithuania 2.83 19.0 51.1 69.2 79.7 63.67 62.33 58.67 57.33 32,092
Luxembourg 0.599 14.3 44.4 80.0 84.7 65 65 60 60 103,662
Malta 0.465 19.4 51.2 79.7 84.0 62 62 61 61 39,535
Moldova 3.55 10.9 36.2 67.3 75.9 62.33 57.5 d d 5,698
Monaco 0.039 32.2 75.1 85.6 93.5 65 65 60 60 c 115,700
Netherlands 17.13 18.8 54.3 79.9 83.2 66 66 d d 52,941
Norway 5.28 16.8 52.9 80.9 84.2 67 67 62 62 60,978
Poland 37.98 16.8 46.2 73.5 81.6 65 60 60 55 29,291
Portugal 10.29 21.5 54.2 78.2 84.2 66.33 66.33 60 60 32,199
Romania 19.59 17.9 49.5 71.5 78.7 65 60.75 60 55.75 25,841
Russia 144.50 14.2 46.6 66.5 76.9 60 55 d d 25,533
San Marino 0.033 19.6 53.3 80.8 86.1 65 65 57 57 62,426
Serbia 7.02 17.4 51.1 72.8 77.8 65 62 60 56 15,090
Slovakia 5.44 15.1 43.8 73.1 80.2 62.38 62.38 60.38 60.38 32,110
Slovenia 2.07 19.1 51.6 77.8 83.9 65 64 60 59.67 34,802
Spain 46.57 19.4 51.8 80.1 85.7 65.5 65.5 61.5 61.5 38,091
Sweden 10.07 20.0 60.1 80.4 84.1 g g g g 50,070
Switzerland 8.47 18.4 49.9 80.8 85.1 65 64 63 62 65,007
Turkey 80.75 8.2 49.5 72.5 79.0 60 58 d d 27,916
Ukraine 44.83 16.5 47.0 66.7 76.5 60 58.0 d d 8,667
United Kingdom 66.02 18.5 56.8 79.2 82.8 65 63 d d 43,877
SOURCES: Information on statutory and early pensionable ages is based on information in the country summaries in this volume. Other indicators are sourced from the World Bank, World Development Indicators, available at; and where information was not available, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook (Washington D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency), available at The figures in the table reflect the latest data available from each source as of the publication of this volume.
NOTES: GDP = gross domestic product; PPP = purchasing power parity. GDP estimates are converted into international dollars using PPP rates. The statutory and early pensionable age shown in the table is the general pensionable age or the age that applies to the largest covered population.
a. Population aged 14 or younger plus population aged 65 or older, divided by population aged 15–64.
b. General early pensionable age only; excludes early pensionable ages for specific groups of employees.
c. 2015 GDP.
d. The country has no early pensionable age, has one only for specific groups, information is not available, or the pension is awarded at any age if certain qualifying conditions are met.
e. 2014 GDP.
f. 2009 GDP.
g. The retirement age is flexible.
Table 4. Insured and employer contribution rates, by country and program type, 2018 (in percent)
Country and contributor Old-age, disability, and survivors Sickness and maternity Work injury Unemployment Family allowances Total, all programs
Insured person 8.8 0.69 0 0 0 9.49
Employer 12.8 1.01 0.3 0.9 0 15.01
Total 21.6 1.70 0.3 0.9 0 24.50
Insured person 6.5 a a 0 0 6.5
Employer 15.5 a a 0 0 15.5
Total 22.0 a a 0 0 22.0
Insured person 10.25 3.78 0 3 0 17.03
Employer 12.55 3.87 1.3 3 3.9 24.62
Total 22.80 7.65 1.3 6 3.9 41.65
Insured person 1 0 0 0 0 1.0
Employer 28 6 0.3 a a 34.3
Total 29 6 0.3 a 0 a 0 35.3
Insured person a 7.50 1.15 0 0.87 0 9.52
Employer a 8.86 2.35 1.33 1.46 0 14.00
Total a 16.36 3.50 1.33 2.33 0 23.52
Insured person 8.78 1.4 0 0.4 0 10.58
Employer 11.02 2.1 0.4 0.6 0 14.12
Total 19.80 3.5 0.4 1.0 0 24.70
Insured person 20 0 0 0 0 20.0
Employer 0 15 a 0.5 1.7 0 17.2
Total 20 15 a 0.5 1.7 0 37.2
Insured person 7.8 a a a 0 7.8
Employer 7.8 a a a 0 7.8
Total 15.6 a a a 0 15.6
Czech Republic  
Insured person 6.5 0 a 0 0 0 6.50
Employer 21.5 2.3 a 0.28 1.2 0 25.28
Total 28.0 2.3 a 0.28 1.2 0 31.78
Insured person b 0 0 0 b 8 0 b 8
Employer b 0 c a, c b 8 0 b, c 0
Total b 0 c 0 a, c 0 b 8 0 b, c 8
Insured person 2 0 0 1.6 0 3.6
Employer 20 13 a 0.8 0 33.8
Total 22 13 a 0 2.4 0 37.4
Insured person 6.35 1.53 0 b 0 b 7.88
Employer 17.75 0.86 0.1 0.65 0 19.36
Total 24.10 2.39 0.1 b 0.65 0 b 27.24
Insured person 10.4 0 0 0.95 0 11.35
Employer 15.1 13.3 c 4.20 3.45 c 36.05
Total 25.5 13.3 c 0 5.15 3.45 c 47.40
Insured person 9.3 8.575 0 1.5 0 19.375
Employer 9.3 8.575 1.18 1.5 0 20.555
Total 18.6 17.150 1.18 3.0 0 39.930
Insured person 6.67 0.40 a 0 0 7.07
Employer 13.33 4.55 a, b 3.17 0 b 21.05
Total 20.00 4.95 a, b 3.17 0 b 28.12
Insured person 6.6 a a a 0 6.6
Employer 6.6 a a a 0 6.6
Total 13.2 a a a 0 13.2
Insured person 10 3 a 1.5 0 14.5
Employer 19.5 a a a 0 19.5
Total 29.5 a 3 a a 1.5 0 34.0
Insured person 4.00 a 0 a 0 0 4.00
Employer 15.35 a 0 a a 0 15.35
Total 19.35 a 0 a a 0 0 19.35
Insured person 4.0 a 0 a a 0 4.0
Employer 8.6 a 0 a a 0 8.6
Total 12.6 a 0 a a 0 12.6
Isle of Man  
Insured person 11.0 a a a 0 11.0
Employer 12.8 a a a 0 12.8
Total 23.8 a a a 0 23.8
Insured person 9.19 b 0 0 0 0 b 9.19
Employer 23.81 2.68 0.04 2.26 0.68 29.47
Total 33.00 b 2.68 0.04 2.26 0.68 b 38.66
Insured person 6.0 a a 0 0 6.0
Employer 6.5 a a 0 0 6.5
Total 12.5 a a 0 0 12.5
Insured person 11.00 a 0 a 0 11.00
Employer 24.09 a a a 0 24.09
Total 35.09 a a 0 a 0 35.09
Insured person 12.7 1.50 0 0.5 0 14.7
Employer 12.9 b c 0.5 1.9 b, c 15.3
Total 25.6 b 1.50 c 0 1.0 1.9 b, c 30.0
Insured person 3.0 0 0 0 0 3.00
Employer 22.3 3.60 0.18 1.4 0 27.48
Total 25.3 3.60 0.18 1.4 0 30.48
Insured person 8 0.25 0 b 0 b 8.25
Employer 8 0.25 0.90 0 0 9.15
Total 16 0.50 0.90 b 0 0 b 17.40
Insured person 10 a a a a 10
Employer 10 a a a a 10
Total 20 a a a a 20
Insured person 6 a 0 a a 0 6
Employer 23 a a a a 0 23
Total 29 a a 0 a a 0 29
Insured person a 6.55 0 0 a 0 6.55
Employer a 8.07 15.1 c a a c 23.17
Total a 14.62 15.1 c 0 a a 0 c 29.72
Insured person 18.00 a 9.65 a 0 0 27.65
Employer 6.27 a a 4.22 0 10.49
Total 24.27 a 9.65 a 4.22 0 38.14
Insured person 8.2 a 0 0 a 0 8.2
Employer 16.1 a 0 a, c a 0 c 16.1
Total 24.3 a 0 a, c 0 a 0 c 24.3
Insured person 11.26 2.45 0 0 0 13.71
Employer 16.26 0 0.4 2.45 0 19.11
Total 27.52 2.45 0.4 2.45 0 32.82
Insured person 11.00 a 0 a 0 11.00
Employer 23.75 a a, c a 0 c 23.75
Total 34.75 a a, c 0 a 0 c 34.75
Insured person 25 0 0 0 0 25.00
Employer 0 2.25 a a 0 2.25
Total 25 2.25 a 0 a 0 0 27.25
Insured person 0 0 0 0 0 0
Employer 22 2.9 0.2 0 a 25.1
Total 22 2.9 0.2 0 a 0 25.1
San Marino  
Insured person 7.4 0 a 0.5 0 7.9
Employer 18.1 5 a 8.9 2.8 34.8
Total 25.5 5 a 9.4 2.8 42.7
Insured person 14 5.15 a 0.75 0 19.9
Employer 12 5.15 a 0.75 0 17.9
Total 26 10.3 a 1.50 0 37.8
Insured person 7 1.4 0 1 0 9.4
Employer 17 1.4 0.8 1 0 20.2
Total 24 2.8 0.8 2 0 29.6
Insured person 15.50 6.46 a 0.14 0 22.1
Employer 8.85 7.19 a 0.06 0 16.1
Total 24.35 13.65 a 0.20 0 38.2
Insured person 4.7 a 0 1.55 0 6.25
Employer 23.6 a 1.98 5.50 0 31.08
Total 28.3 a 1.98 7.05 0 37.33
Insured person 7.00 0 0.0 0 0 7.00
Employer a 10.91 6.95 0.2 2.91 0 20.97
Total a 17.91 6.95 0.2 2.91 0 27.97
Insured person 8.4 b 0.225 c 0 1.1 0 b, c 9.72
Employer 8.4 b 0.225 c 0 1.1 0.1 b, c 9.82
Total 16.8 b 0.450 c 0 2.2 0.1 b, c 19.55
Insured person 9 0 0 1 . . . 10
Employer 11 2 a 2 . . . 15
Total 20 2 a 0 3 . . . 25
Insured person 0 0 a a 0 0
Employer 22 a a a 0 22
Total 22 a 0 a a 0 22
United Kingdom  
Insured person 12.0 a 0 a a 0 14.05
Employer 13.8 b a a 0 b 15.70
Total 25.8 a, b a a 0 b 29.75
SOURCE: The country summaries in this volume.
NOTES: This table provides an overview. Contribution rates are not directly comparable across programs and countries. The definition of earnings used to calculate contributions can vary and some rates are subject to contribution floors and ceilings. Contribution rates for self-employed persons and government funding are not represented. In some countries, only certain groups of employed persons, such as wage earners, are represented. When the contribution rate varies, either the average or the lowest rate in the range is used. In most cases, contribution rates for individual accounts do not include administrative fees. In most cases, contributions for medical benefits have been excluded. They are only included in Sickness and Maternity in countries where cash benefits and medical benefits are financed from the same contributions. Where two programs are financed in different ways or with different rates, either the aggregate rate is used or one rate for one program and a footnote for the other, if relevant. If an individual can choose whether to participate in two (or more) programs, the social insurance rate is shown.
. . . = not applicable
a. All or certain benefits are financed under another program.
b. Nonstandard financing. See country profile for specific information.
c. Employers pay the total cost or provide benefits directly to the insured.