A Dynamic Behavioral Model of Korean Saving, Work, and Benefit Claiming Decisions

Published in: The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Volume 20 (October 2021). doi: 10.1016/j.jeoa.2021.100321

by David Knapp, Italo Lopez Garcia, Krishna B. Kumar, Jinkook Lee, Jongwook Won

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The Republic of Korea faces a rapidly aging population that is more reliant on public pension support but pension contributions are insufficient to support its long-term obligations. As a result, there is a growing debate on what type of reforms to the current defined-pension system could balance the long-term funding of the system with insuring benefit levels for old and new beneficiaries. In this paper, we develop and estimate a dynamic behavioral model that captures essential elements of the National Pension Scheme (NPS) and behavioral responses in labor supply, savings and benefit claiming to changes in the public pension system using a nationally-representative sample of married couples nearing retirement from the Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging (KLoSA). We use the model estimates to evaluate the effect of counterfactual policy experiments such as increases in the contribution rate and the extension of normal retirement age on the decision to work or not work, savings and benefit claiming among individuals near retirement. While these policies are aimed at shoring up the NPS, our model demonstrates that changes to the contribution rate could discourage work and savings in married households near retirement. In particular, a 2 percentage point immediate increase in the contribution rate would reduce household savings by 2 percent among poor households, as well as reduce labor participation among wives by 3 percent and among husbands by less than a percent. When we simulate the same increase in the contribution rate in even increments over five years, households anticipate the policy change and increase their savings to compensate for the future fall in income, dissipating undesirable behavioral responses such as decreased work and savings. In contrast, an increase of 2 years in the normal retirement age leads to a 3 percent increase in household savings, and to an increase in both husband and wife labor force participation (less than 1 percent and 3 percent respectively). These finding suggest policy design, such as phase-in periods, can be leveraged to minimize undesirable behavioral responses of households near retirement. Despite their potential detrimental effects in labor supply and savings, findings from a benefit-cost analysis suggest that the costs of undesired behavioral responses to an increase in contribution rates are orders of magnitude smaller than the revenue benefits to the NPS's finances.

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