Taking on Taiwan’s ruinous and partisan pension system

Retired but not retiring

THE protests outside parliament got so ferocious that the 2,000 policemen defending the building barricaded it with barbed wire. That was soon festooned with angry placards. Inside, opposition politicians sought to disrupt parliamentary business: they seized the podium, and brawls broke out. In Taiwan, as everywhere else, reining in expensive pensions is not easy. But Tsai Ing-wen, the president, seems determined to press on. The current system, she said last month, is on “the brink of bankruptcy”.

The government’s liabilities have swelled to almost NT$18trn ($597bn), nine times its total annual expenditures. That is divided among funds for different professions, in which contributions from current workers help to finance payments to pensioners. The fund for civil servants is projected to go bust by 2031; the one for teachers by 2030; the one for private-sector workers in 2027; and the one for the armed forces in 2020.

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