Friday 20 September 2019

Gender pension gap: Women left €600 worse off each month

Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)
Regina Doherty (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)
Orla O’Connor: Private pension system does not work for women. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The full extent of the gender pension gap has been revealed, with retired women getting €153 less a week in pensions than men.

A new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found that men get €433 on average, with women receiving just €280.

This means men are getting a third more than women in their pension pots - a gap of 35pc.

Over a year, retired women receive on average almost €8,000 less than men.

The difference is largely due to the fact men have been in the workforce longer and more of them have occupational and private pensions.

Career interruptions due to caring responsibilities are the main reason women end up with less in private pension income.

Women earn less, work fewer hours, and have shorter careers when they do work outside the home.

Today's ESRI report is the first attempt to put a monetary figure on the gender pension gap.

Most men will have worked for more than 30 years, but only a third of women spent that long in the workforce.

Many were forced to give up employment due to the marriage bar, or opted out of paid employment to raise children, leaving them with lower pensions.

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And one in five women have never taken up paid employment, according to the ESRI report funded by the Pensions Council.

The council was set up to advise Employment Affairs and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty on policy.

The research found women with higher educational attainments were less likely to suffer a gender pensions gap.

No gap was found when it comes to those who receive a State pension.

Director of the National Women's Council Orla O'Connor said the ESRI report made clear the private pensions system was not working for women.

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Orla O’Connor: Private pension system does not work for women. Picture: Gerry Mooney

And the Government's plan to introduce an auto-enrolment scheme for those not in an occupational pension is set to exacerbate the situation, she maintained.

Ms O'Connor called for a State-supported universal pension scheme that recognises the role of carers, rather than retirement schemes based on contributions.

The authors of the ESRI study said the huge gap in the pension payments to men and women meant there needed to be a response from policymakers.

Co-author Adele Whelan of the ESRI said a complex mix of factors shape the working lives of women and men, such as personal desires, household decision-making processes, social conditions and public policies.

"In order to reduce the pension gender gap, policymakers need to consider measures to raise female employments levels, reduce the differences in occupational and private pension coverage across genders, ensure increased continuity in employment and adequately protect against care-related interruptions," she said.

There is also a need for more affordable childcare if more women are to work outside the home, Dr Whelan said.

The research, based on data from 2010 gathered for the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, found that older people were less inclined to suffer income poverty than other age groups.

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Researchers found fewer than one in 10 of those over the age of 65 were living in income poverty.

The figure was double for working-age people. However, older people who are poorer are likely to live alone.

Women were found to be more risk-averse when it comes to money, and have poorer financial literacy skills than men.

Chairman of the Pensions Council Jim Murray welcomed the study.

He said it was an important contribution to the "detailed understanding of the Irish retirement system that we need to identify what policies are most likely to succeed".

Irish Independent

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