Monday 18 December 2017

More than 35,000 pensioners - mainly women - losing out on thousands in pension payments, new reports reveal

Justin Moran of Age Action Picture: Robbie Reynolds
Justin Moran of Age Action Picture: Robbie Reynolds

Charlie Weston and Shane Phelan

Thousands of pensioners, mainly women, are losing large amounts of money from their retirement payments due to austerity cuts, it has emerged.

A report from Age Action has estimated that 35,000 pensioners have been hit with lower payments due to changes to State pension eligibility rules in 2012.

More than six out of 10 of these, or close to 23,000 people, are women.

In a separate report, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission called for a review of welfare policy from a gender perspective.

Its research found that Irish women earn 14pc less on average than their male counterparts.

A pension gap of 38pc also exists, the human rights watchdog said.

This means that women on the State pension are getting around €88 less on average than men.

Both Age Action and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission say one of the main reasons women are losing out is due to changes made by the previous government, making it more difficult to qualify for a full pension.

On average, retired workers have lost more than €1,500 a year, with women suffering the biggest hit, according to Age Action.

Justin Moran, of the advocacy group, said: "We need to put to bed the myth that the State pension was protected by the last government.

"It was cut, drastically cut, for tens of thousands of older people, who have lost substantial sums of money as a result."

In 2012, the then-government changed the eligibility criteria for the contributory State pension. It moved to an "averaging rule" to calculate the number of contributions made by a worker. 

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Those entitled to a full pension were unaffected, but large numbers of those who would have been in line for smaller pensions lost out.

"Under the old system, if you had an average of 20 contributions a year, you would be entitled to €228.70. But after 2012, this dropped to €198.60, a cut of more than €30 each week," Mr Moran said.

Age Action said women pensioners have been hit hardest by the changes, widening an already unequal pension gap.

"Figures provided by the Department of Social Protection show that of the 36,000 people affected by these changes, more than 64pc are women. The changes punish women who took time out of work to care for their children," said Mr Moran.

This is because the current generation of pensioners get no benefit from the Homemaker's Scheme, which allows for top-ups to State pension payments for those taking time out of the workforce to care for children.

Age Action is calling on Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to reverse the 2012 pension cut.

Irish Independent

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