UBS International Pension Gap Index

We review the mandatory pension systems of 12 countries worldwide and conclude that private savings are crucial for retirement, no matter where in the world you live.

17 Oct 2017 | Tags: retirement

People often don't think about retirement until they are nearing the end of their working life. But our analysis shows that relying purely on mandatory pension systems no longer makes sense, as they only insure a minimum income to cover basic needs in old age. No matter where in the world you live, you are likely to face a pension gap – in other words, your costs will exceed your retirement "income".

So what can you do? In short - start saving for retirement as early as you can.

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Calculate it: How much do you need to save?

Use the tool below to find out what your pension gap is, based on your income and lifestyle preferences.

What lifestyle are you aiming for?

Preparing for retirement: a 50-year-old Jane across the world

In order to compare pension gaps globally, we calculated the retirement income and costs of a representative 50-year-old "Average Jane" in different countries.*

Jane earns a median full–time wage and enjoys a basic urban lifestyle. She has had a good life but has not saved for anything more than a rainy day until now. At age 50, she still has at least 10 years of work left before she retires. We found that no matter where the representative Jane lives, the mandatory pension system will not provide her with enough income to lean back and relax. To close the pension gap, Jane would need to start saving a certain percentage of her income each month. Below is a country comparison.

*For full methodology, please download the full report.

Jane's retirement income is influenced by three global trends that affect pension systems worldwide in one way or another: demographic change, public finances and low interest rates. Below we list some country highlights.


Switzerland ranks highest on our pension gap index. It is one of the few countries with two mandatory pillars financed by workers and employers. But can it sustain the longest living population in Europe?


Japan has the highest life expectancy, and its pension plan is feeling the burden of an aging population. Will current reform measures suffice to meet future challenges?


Germany enacted reforms – like other European countries – and raised its retirement age to 67 as a consequence of an aging population. But there are still differences between the former East and West.


Italy introduced major reform, moving from a generous defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan. Given high public debt, the former was no longer sustainable. Is this a role model for others?


France has more than 30 different pension schemes. Will President Emmanuel Macron be able to push for reform to unify them and decrease the administrative burden?


Australia has an employer-based, defined-contribution plan, supported by a means-tested government pension. It is a lean and sustainable system. But what are the prospects it provides to its recipients?

Hong Kong

Hong Kong introduced a mandatory defined-contribution fund only in 2000, and exemplifies the impact of a late start to retirement planning.


Canada has recently introduced reforms that will increase public pension payments. Is this sustainable?


Taiwan has the lowest retirement age. Its example illustrates how working a few years longer can make a significant difference.

  • While it is never too late to start thinking about your pension, the earlier you start, the better your prospects for a secure and enjoyable retirement. Over the numerous years that you spend in the workforce and can save for retirement, the compound interest effect will be substantial.
  • As your savings grow, it's important to invest them in a smart and diversified way.
  • Don't forget about pension systems all together – many provide additional voluntary savings options, combined with tax incentives.

For more detail on the pension gap in different countries download the full report.