The gender pension gap

In May 2013, George Osborne, speaking at the Global Investment Conference in London, admitted he was delighted with the money he had saved by increasing the State Pension age, which particularly badly affects women born from 1951 to 1959. He believed that it was one of the least controversial things the government had done.  However, he may have spoken too soon. Women are now becoming aware of the laws passed in 1995 and 2011 to increase their State Pension Age from 60 years to 66 years, and are fighting back.

The pensions system was designed by men for men’s working lives. Today’s women may be adopting similar working patterns to men, but back in 1970, most women’s lives were a patchwork of working sometimes, caring sometimes and often doing both.  The targeted women grew up in a time of inequality with none of the workplace advantages young women have today.  Nurseries, school breakfast clubs, afterschool clubs, child tax credits, maternity leave, parental leave, flexible working, part-time worker protection were all yet to be introduced.  Indeed, before the Employment Protection Act of 1975 was introduced, it was quite legal for an employer to sack a woman on the grounds that she was pregnant. As a consequence, 1950’s women were far more dependent on the State pension as occupational pensions failed to adapt to the reality of women’s working patterns.

It is well documented that women’s pensions are significantly lower than men’s at retirement. Those that do have an occupational pension receive, on average, one eighth of the income a man receives from his occupational pension and 40% of the affected women have no private pension at all, many of them are seeking employment to sustain themselves for the additional years but are finding that their skills are out of date and the only jobs available to them are those in physically demanding roles such as care home assistants, childcare roles, cleaners, shop workers and so on. Other women are now relying on asking husbands for money, after financial independence, it is like going back in time.

These women had a ‘contract’ with the government.  They paid their NI contributions during their working lives and the government agreed in return to provide a State pension at 60 years of age.  Men had a similar ‘contract’, but they expected to get their pensions at 65 years. The Government have now sought to introduce retrospective equality as, of course, pension planning is a long-term activity and for many of these women the planning started back in 1969.  The first to be affected by the new State Pension Age of 66 years were born on 6 October 1954. We now have a situation where one woman does not receive her pension, whilst another receives her pension without a severe penalty because she was born a few months earlier.

Another injustice is that the women collecting their pensions, bus passes and winter fuel allowances may actually have less years of NI contributions than their younger peers who have been forced to continue working.  And as far as longevity goes, the greatest predictor of longevity is wealth, not gender.  The argument of gender longevity although repeated tirelessly is disingenuous.  Obviously, currently there is no data on what the effects of working beyond their mid-sixties will have on women’s healthy life expectancy in the future.

If you agree with us, Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), that whilst we are not opposed to the equalisation of pension ages, we don’t agree with the unfair way the changes have been implemented, then please sign our petition here.

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Post Author

Celia Johnson
Celia is one of the co-founders of WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality), recently formed by 5 ordinary women who made contact over the internet and were united in their desire to see State Pension justice for 1950’s women. They have managed to gain the support of thousands upon thousands of women who, like them, want to see a fair outcome.