Public pensions are a ‘social technology’ at the heart of most welfare states. The basic goal pursued by a public pension system is to make sure that individuals do not outlive their savings. An increasing number of states have recently moved to a system that matches individuals’ contributions over their working lives to a specific stream of revenue during their retirement years (i.e. defining contributions rather than benefits). As a result, intragenerational fairness concerns have started to become more relevant. In this article, we shall claim that, irrespective of how one conceptualises the welfare state, most public pension systems violate actuarial fairness and any plausible account of distributive justice, and that they do so for structural reasons. Studying the Italian case, we offer insights on this regressive redistributive effect, based on regional data, and offer an implicit policy solution to obviate this problem.
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