With the Canada Pension Plan on many people’s minds, how does Canada’s public pension system compare to those of other countries? In light of the debate over the CPP and old-age security, Benefits Canada takes a look at how Canada’s system stacks up against other countries around the world.

The Mercer Melbourne Global Pension Index ranks Canada’s retirement income system seventh out of 25 countries. Another global report, published in December 2015 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, reviews and analyzes the pension measures enacted or legislated in OECD member countries between September 2013 and September 2015.

It’s difficult to draw comparisons as many countries on the list — such as Australia, Britain, China, Denmark, France and Iceland — have mandatory employer-provided pensions. “Our problem is lack of workplace pension plan coverage in the private sector, which we are the process of addressing. . . . We just haven’t quite figured out how yet,” says Keith Ambachtsheer, president of KPA Advisory Services Ltd.

Read: What employers need to know to comply with the ORPP act

For that reason, the comparison below will focus solely on the public pension systems. In Canada, that covers the Canada Pension Plan, old-age security and the guaranteed income supplement for low-income pensioners, all three of which have recently changed – or will soon potentially change – due to legislation. Finance ministers meet this month to discuss CPP reform; the GIS benefit top-up increases by up to $947 as of July 1; and the Liberal government has confirmed it will restore OAS age to 65.

“In restoring the OAS eligibility age to 65, we are probably doing the right thing for the wrong reason,” says Malcolm Hamilton, a pension consultant and senior fellow at C.D. Howe Institute. “There was no economic justification for changing it from 65 to 67 in the first place.”

The good news about the CPP is it has the potential to reach everybody, says Ottawa-based pension consultant Bob Baldwin. “Virtually all of the employed and self-employed participate in the program, and you’ve got a reasonably efficient administrative apparatus that is already in place. That’s the good news.”

Read: Budget 2016: Changes to OAS and GIS benefits confirmed

Before diving into 12 individual countries, including Canada, here are a few facts to consider:

  • Across OECD countries, the average retirement age will increase to 65.5 by 2060 from 64 in 2014 on the basis of legislation as of 2015.
  • Employees stay the longest in the labour market in Iceland, Japan, Korea and Mexico. In Belgium and France, men retire the earliest, while it’s women who do so in Poland and Slovenia.
  • Future net-replacement rates from mandatory pensions for a full-career, average-wage worker are an average of 63 per cent in OECD countries. They range from 27 per cent in Mexico to 111 per cent in Turkey.

So, how does Canada measure up against other industrialized countries?



How does it work? Canada’s public pension system offers a flat-rate benefit that can be topped up with an income-tested benefit (the guaranteed income supplement) and earnings-related public schemes (the Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan).

Read: Why OAS needs a makeover

Age of eligibility: Under the former Conservative government, the age of eligibility for the basic OAS pension was to gradually increase to age 67, starting in April 2023, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first federal budget confirmed it would restore it to 65. For the Canada Pension Plan, the normal eligibility age is 65, but people can take an early pension from age 60 or a late one up to age 70.

Benefit calculation: Based on April to June 2016 monthly rates, the maximum annual OAS pension benefit for an individual is $6,846.24. The maximum annual GIS benefit is currently $9,283.20 (the amount will increase on July 1 to $10,230.20). So a single senior with no income outside of OAS and GIS benefits (such as CPP) would receive a combined $16,129.44 under the current amounts.

The maximum CPP payment amount for 2016 is $13,110. According to Finance Canada, it’s possible for an individual with the maximum CPP benefit to qualify for GIS payments as well. A senior could receive OAS, GIS and CPP benefits, but it’s not possible to receive the maximum of each of them since higher CPP payments directly reduce GIS amounts.


How does it work? Australia’s public retirement system involves a means-tested age pension funded through general taxation.

Age of eligibility: The pension is payable from age 65. From July 1, 2017, the pension age will increase by six months every two years until it reaches 67 by July 1, 2023.

Benefit calculation: In March 2014, the maximum single rate of pension was equal to an annual entitlement of 21,570 Australian dollars (currently equal to $20,316.63).

UK ParliamentBRITAIN

How does it work? Before April 6, 2016, Britain’s public pension system had two tiers: a flat-rate basic pension and an earnings-related one. The new state pension introduces a flat-rate pension based only on national insurance contributions.

Age of eligibility: The state pension age is currently 65 for men and 63 for women. The pension age for women is gradually rising to 65 by November 2018. The government has also legislated increases in the state pension age to 66 by October 2020 and to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

Read: What can Canada learn from Britain’s pension reforms?

Benefit calculation: The full rate for the new state pension is 155.65 pounds per week, which works out to about 8,000 pounds a year ($14,585.51). The additional earnings-related pension, which can reach almost 200 pounds a week and depends on national insurance contributions, is still available for people who reached the state pension age before April 6, 2016.


How does it work? China has a basic public pension.

Age of eligibility: The normal pension age is 60 for all men, 50 for blue-collar women and 55 for white-collar women. The government has said it will begin to gradually increase the normal pension age in 2017.

Benefit calculation: The basic pension pays one per cent of the average of the indexed individual wage and the provincewide average earnings for each year of coverage, subject to a minimum of 15 years of contributions. The program includes indexing according to a mix of wages and prices, which has been about 10 per cent in recent years.

* This summary is from the OECD report and was not updated by sources in China.


Copenhagen-Denmark-ShutterstockHow does it work? Denmark’s public retirement system consists of a basic scheme and a means-tested supplementary pension benefit.

Age of eligibility: The normal pension age is currently 65 for men and 67 for women. The government will gradually increase it to 67 for all individuals between 2019 to 2022.

Benefit calculation: The full basic pension amount is 6,063 krone per month or 72,756 krone ($14,054.44) per year.

Read: Pension column: Lessons from Denmark


Paris-France-ShutterstockHow does it work? France has a basic pension that can be topped up by a means-tested supplement.

Age of eligibility: Under the country’s 2010 pension reforms, the minimum legal retirement age will increase to 62 from 60 by 2017 for people born in 1955 and onward. The age of entitlement to the full-rate pension will rise to 67 from 65 between 2016 and 2023.

Benefit calculation: The minimum full-rate pension is currently 629.63 euros a month or 7,555.56 euros ($10,851.08) per year.

* This summary is from the OECD report and updated by the Centre de Liaisons Européennes et Internationales de Sécurité Sociale (CLEISS)


How does it work? The statutory public pension system has a single tier and is an earnings-related system. The pension calculation is based on pension points. People can claim additional means-tested benefits from social assistance.

Age of eligibility: The current old-age pension is payable from age 65 and three months with at least five years of contributions. The statutory retirement age will gradually increase to 67 until 2031 for those born in 1964 or later.

Benefit calculation: A year’s contribution at the average earnings of contributors earns one pension point. The relevant average earning is approximately identical to the national accounts average earnings, which was 34,857 euros in 2014. At retirement, the pension points are summed up and then multiplied by a pension-point value, which was 337.68 euros in 2014. So, an individual who worked for 40 years and retired in 2014 could expect to receive 13,507.20 euros annually ($19,399.34).

* This summary is from the OECD report only


How does it work? Controversial pension reforms passed in May 2016 include a new national monthly pension and the phasing out of a benefit for poor pensioners.

Age of eligibility: From Jan. 1, 2013, the pension age in Greece rose to 67 for both men and women with less than 4,500 days (equivalent to 15 years) of contributions.

Benefit calculation: The new national pension is 384 euros a month or 4,608 euros ($6,618.79) per year. The previous basic pension was between 486.84 and 596.31 euros per month, depending on marital status, employment status and number of children.

* This summary is from the OECD report plus updated information on Greece’s new pension reforms


Tokyo-Japan-ShutterstockHow does it work? The public pension system has two tiers: a basic, flat-rate scheme and an earnings-related plan.

Age of eligibility: The pension age for the basic scheme is 65, with a minimum of 25 years of contributions. From April 1, 2017, it will require a minimum of 10 years of contributions. The earnings-related pension age is increasing to 65 from 60 between 2013 and 2025 for men and between 2018 and 2030 for women.

Benefit calculation: The full annual basic pension benefit in 2016 is equal to 780,100 yen ($9,283.64). The earnings-related pension benefit depends on both remuneration and the length of contributions.

* This summary is from the OECD report only

Auckland-NewZealand-ShutterstockNEW ZEALAND 

How does it work? The public pension is a flat-rate arrangement based on a residency test.

Age of eligibility: Ten years’ residency since the age of 20 entitles people to the public pension as of age 65.

Benefit calculation: The pension for a single person was 443.43 New Zealand dollars gross per week from April 1, 2016. This provides a total pension of 23,058.36 New Zealand dollars ($20,785.25) per year.

* This summary is from the OECD report only

south africa flag


How does it work? South Africa’s public pension is a flat-rate arrangement based on a residency test.

Age of eligibility: The pension age was equalized at age 60 for men and women in 2010.

Benefit calculation: The maximum benefit amount is 1,500 rand per month for single people, increasing to 1,510 rand in October 2016. The current amount works out to 18,000 rand ($1,516.60) per year.


How does it work? The publicly provided pension benefit in the United States, known as social security, has a progressive benefit formula. There’s also a means-tested top-up payment available for low-income pensioners.

Age of eligibility: The pension age (called the normal retirement age) was 66 in 2014 and will increase to 67 by 2022. A person can take a reduced retirement benefit as early as age 62.

USCongress-ShutterstockBenefit calculation: The earnings-related pension benefit formula is progressive, with portions of relevant monthly earnings attracting a different replacement rate. For instance, in 2016, the band of monthly earnings between US$856 and US$5,1517 attracts a replacement rate of 32 per cent. According to the Social Security Administration, in 2015, the average monthly benefit was US$1,336 a month or US$16,032 ($20,404.82) annually.

There’s also a means-tested benefit for the elderly, known as supplemental security income. In 2016, individuals aged 65 years or older without an eligible spouse can receive a monthly payment of up to US$733, or US$8,796 ($11,194.30) annually.

* Currency conversions to Canadian dollars based on current rates on June 10


Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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Michael Anthony Pope:

Just sticking to facts i find i cannot afford to live in Canada any more I have worked since 1950 . i am better off living in Philippines and doing without health care . Eating a severely limited diet at age 84. I do not receive any Guaranteed income supplement. Ok I do not spend GIS in Canada now but if I got it but I could by buying from Canadian Suppliers for all material goods and filing my receipts with my Tax return. I cost my mother country nothing for health care or any other benefit yet I still file income tax and pay it . Bad deal for Canada and myself. If I could afford to live in Canada I would but rents and food and clothing left me at below the poverty level in my old home area in West Vancouver. You should be encouraging Canadian Seniors to move to warmer climes and live longer and cost the Canadian Taxpayers and earners less. . I have real issues with calling this the “Guaranteed Income Supplement.” — Why restrict the increase to only the GIS why not the basic OAS or CPP I worked almost exactly the same amount of time in USA and Canada yet my US Social Sec. amounts to US $ 818 and my combined OAS ans OASD is CAN.$ 718 Is This the thanks for working for years at below standard wages in Canadian Defence industry and Federal Gov. Research I used to be proud to be a Canadian now i have my doubts

Wednesday, July 19 at 5:05 am | Reply


I am in the ‘same boat’. Notice that this gentleman is talking about retirement in the Philippines, one of the cheapest countries in S.E. Asia, rather than Thailand. For me it’ll be one of two other cheap countries – Cambodia or India. And I too am curious why the retirement scheme is so complicated and domicile-dependent.

Monday, July 29 at 12:27 am | Reply

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