Why Greece will never make it: self-fulfilling expectations about social security

Mediterranean countries have many things in common, one of them is an early retirement age. You certainly read about the uproar when the Germans learned that they had to bail out the Greeks who enjoy retirement many years earlier. Now there is much pressure on Greece to lower and delay pensions, but there is tremendous resistance from the street. The same is happening right now in France as well. Yet, initiative to delay retirement in Northern Europe or North America, where retirement age is already higher, do not generate much discussion.

Ryo Arawatari and Tetsuo Ono may have an explanation for this dichotomy: self-fulfilling expectations. The story is very intuitive. If you expect pensions to be generous, there is no point in accumulating savings for retirement, and you do not invest in education either. And once you are low skill, you will vote for generous pensions. The opposite happens with expectations of small pensions. And once you are in such an equilibrium, it is very very difficult to get out of it: people want generous pensions, and the newcomers know this and thus expect this not to change, and make the appropriate (non)investments. To change this, you need to massively lower expectations during a whole generation or more. No Greek government can have that much staying power. And neither does the French one.

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