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The informal economy and the constraints that it imposes on pension contributions in Latin America

Document Number 14/19


Low contribution levels to pension schemes in Latin America are an enormous obstacle limiting the implementation of a broad-based social security system. Contribution rates measured as a ratio of contributors to the total labour force stand at an average of 40%, or 60% in the best of cases. Although previous studies explain this situation by factors related to growth, economic institutions and market considerations, only a few studies have quantified the specific determinants behind this problem. This studytherefore aims to approach the subject by exploring the national household surveys for Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. Once the specific question relating to pension contributions has been identified in the surveys, probit models are used to estimate the probability that this event may occur, conditioned by the variables that theory considers to be explanatory. The study finds the enormous relevance of labour markets as a common conditional factor affecting the likelihood to contribute to any pension system in Latin America. Working in the informal economy, being a self-employed worker or working in a micro-enterprise are particularly significant and show the highest coefficients in this geographical region. The high impact of these variables may give clues for economic policy, in its search for eliminating the hurdles in labour market distortions that limit the impact of social security programmes. JEL: G23, H55, H75, J01, J26, J38, J32.

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