It will be easier to take a career break without losing State pension entitlements following reforms introduced by Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.
The reforms mean the ending of some of the restrictions that stopped people making voluntary contributions under the PRSI (pay related social insurance) system.
The changes are designed to ensure that more people who take career breaks, early retirement, move abroad temporarily, or experience a bad year in self-employment can protect or improve their right to a contributory State pension, and a pension for their spouse or child's guardian should they die prematurely.
Mr Varadkar said: "At the moment, if you pay into the PRSI system for long enough, you become entitled to certain benefits without having to pass a means-test. These include the State pension contributory when you reach 66 and the widows/survivors' pension for your partner if you die before the age of 66."
He added that in many circumstances you can lose this entitlement or have it reduced if you leave work and stop paying PRSI for a number of years. Voluntary contributions allow people to prevent this from happening.
"I am making it easier to make these voluntary contributions by giving people up to five years to decide to do so instead of just one."