Last week’s entry highlighted that public spending on family-related benefits has fallen as a share of total social protection expenditure between 2008 and 2012 in the majority of European Union countries, just as spending on old age benefits was rising. Since Eurostat does not tend to report on non-European OECD countries, a number of high income states were notably missing from the picture.
To rectify this omission, the figure below includes eight OECD countries that are not covered in the Eurostat system. It plots the absolute change in spending on family benefits as a share of total general government expenditure (blue bars), overlaying the corresponding change in old age spending (orange bars) between 2008 and 2011, the latest year for which comparable figures are available. The data come from the OECD Social Expenditure Database (SOCX).
Australia is the only country where the share of family-related spending decreased by more than one percentage point between 2008 and 2011. The decline is largely due to expenditure on family benefits having peaked at 9% in 2008 and then returning to the previous level (around 7%). Spending on old age benefits has remained stable in the meantime.
In contrast, old age spending went up in Mexico as a share of total government expenditure, while spending on family benefits remained unchanged.
In Israel, New Zealand and the United States, spending on families remained stable while the share of old age spending increased somewhat. In Canada, both family-related and old age spending were virtually unchanged.
In Japan and the Republic of Korea, modest increases in family spending were accompanied by comparable increases in old age expenditure, as a percentage of total government spending.
However, focusing on modest changes over time hides the marked variation in the shares of spending on family and old age benefits across these countries. In 2011, family-related spending ranged from 3% of total government expenditure in Canada, Japan and the Republic of Korea to just under 8% in Australia and New Zealand. The corresponding share of old age spending varied from 7% in Mexico and the Republic of Korea to 25% in Japan.
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