Are widows 'and orphans' pensions still necessary? This is the title of one of the chapters of the latest OECD report on pensions in the world, published today, in which it is clear that Spain is the country with the most survival benefits in the world since this organization brings together the Thirty or more industrialized countries. Specifically, for every hundred retirement pensions, there are 47 more for widowhood, the largest proportion of the developed world. Or, which is the same, for every two benefits of retired workers there is almost one of widowhood.
In fact, spending on survival pensions (especially widowhood, but also orphanhood) is more than double in Spain than in the OECD average, where its cost is equivalent to 1% of GDP on average. In the Spanish case it rises to 2.3% of GDP (more than 22,000 million euros per year) and is only surpassed by Greece and Italy, where it rises to 2.6% of its national wealth.
The data of the OECD are from 2014 but in recent years neither the number of beneficiaries nor the expenditure have been contained to lose these positions in the OECD ranking, if not rather the opposite. In fact, this year the percentage of the deceased worker's regulatory base on which the majority of widow's pensions are calculated has gone from 52% to 56% and in January 2019 it will rise to 60%.
Along with this, other causes that explain that Spain leads these ranking in number of beneficiaries and spending on widow's pensions is the virtual absence of limitations in access to this benefit. In fact, the latest legal changes have gone in the opposite direction extending this benefit to common-law couples or to new same-sex marriages, in the interests of non-discrimination.
Although in Spain it is required that the deceased worker and cause of widow's benefit fulfill the minimum requirements of years of contribution to access a contributory pension (15 years) beyond that, the only incompatibility of widow's pensions in Spain occurs in case the beneficiary or beneficiary re-marries. This limitation is only present in five other OECD countries: Canada, Finland, France, Norway and the United States.
This differs from most other developed countries where there is another type of incompatibility of pension duration (in Spain they are for life) or income level of the widow or widower, among other requirements.
Given this circumstance, the OECD recommends countries such as Spain to reform the widow's pension so that they establish new limits that, for example, make this income for life only in the event that the beneficiary is already retired or that eliminates the possibility of payment of this benefit in the case of divorced persons who do not remarry.
The OECD justifies these recommendations with several arguments. First, it indicates that most of the developed countries have instruments directly related to the prevention of poverty, such as minimum income and pensions, as well as social benefits that even include housing subsidies. "Although in many of the States the level of these benefits is not very high, there is no justification for widows and widowers to have greater guarantees and social protection than other non-widowed individuals with similar income problems. where the concern for the eradication of poverty is high, they have eliminated this type of pension ", argues this international organization.
However, this body admits that widow's pensions "are contributing effectively to reduce the gender gap in the beneficiaries of benefits in most countries." But, at the same time, it considers that widow's pensions, "discourage work, especially among the youngest". They also suggest the need to make this income incompatible with certain situations of income or family, in which the standard of living after the death of a spouse is not so resentful.