The recent financial and economic crisis has exacerbated the funding shortfalls of Europe’s public pension systems, but the main driver of expenditure growth is the ageing of the European population. The demographic challenge, however, is not the same for each EU member state. Moreover, nation-specific pension schemes influence each state’s ability to handle demographic challenges. When adapting to the ageing of their societies the member states might even differ in their preferences as to which generation should mainly be burdened with the effects of demographic change. With this in mind, it is too narrowminded to take a solely fiscal perspective from which to develop European reform strategies which meet the requirements for both fiscal balance and sustainable public pension systems.

Therefore, the EU should support national reform strategies by monitoring public pension reforms as well as improving the single market. However, public pension policy should remain a national competence. In addition, the examples of our Italian and British case studies highlight that long term pension reform should be innovative and involve public, occupational and private elements.