Saturday 19 January 2019

Pension gender gap twice as large as the pay gender gap in Ireland

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has said that the cabinet needs to do more to reduce the gender gap in pensions
Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has said that the cabinet needs to do more to reduce the gender gap in pensions
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

The pension gender gap is twice as large as the pay gender gap in Ireland, according to a report by human resource consulting firm, Mercer.

Ireland’s pension gender gap is 35pc, slightly below the EU average but more than double Ireland’s gender pay gap of 14.8pc.

Speaking at the Pensions Europe Annual Conference in Brussels, Brian Hayes MEP, called on the new cabinet to do more to close the pension gender gap, saying that it should be a “clear focus of the new Cabinet, particularly as we go into very sensitive public sector pay and pension talks.”

“While there has been some good progress made in Ireland and the EU to reduce the pay divide between men and women, the pension gender gap is something that has been sadly neglected,” the MEP for Dublin said.

With rising life expectancy and the ageing of both the Irish and European population, the pension problem has become a ticking time bomb.

Read more: World heading for a pensions crisis, but no quick fix is in sight

In Ireland, the next big pensions faultline is pay talks between Government and the public sector unions, where the costs of future retirement benefits as much as wages are in focus in the push to restore salaries reduced through levies after the financial crisis.

At the same time, many private corporate pension scheme are facing massive challenges to remain solvent as investments and new entrants fail to keep pace with entitlements.

“I believe this issue needs to come up in discussions on the public sector pay and pensions talks. Any change in pension contributions needs to take into account gender issues and the effect they can have on people’s retirement income,” Hayes said.

Hayes also noted the “little consideration” given to the fact that some women take career breaks or work part-time.

Read more: Employees warned on new pension deals as more companies expected to close schemes

“Because there are maximum pension contribution limits, it is difficult for employees who have had a career break to catch up on missed contributions,” he said.

However, he also said that there were a number of things that the government could do to tackle the issue of pension gender gap including changing the nature of the pension system to recognise the differences in work life balance between women and men.

“Many will say that the pension gender gap is a natural manifestation of the difference in work patterns between men and women. However, if we look at the Baltic countries, they all have pension gender gaps of below 15pc, Estonia’s pension gender gap is just 4pc,” Hayes commented.

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