A Women's Pension Network is being co-ordinated by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) as part of a campaign to reform the pensions system and close the pensions gap.
Backed by former Pensions Minister Baroness Hollis, and a number of leading organisations including the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Age Concern, the EOC’s Women’s Pension Campaign has set out three building blocks of reform to tackle the problems women face in retirement.
First of these points is the need for a common entitlement to the basic State pension, which would recognise the value of each person’s contribution, whether through paid work or caring for others. At the moment 2.2 million women are not accruing rights to the basic State pension, which leaves one in five single women pensioners at risk of poverty during retirement.
The EOC is also campaigning for all pension schemes, both private and State, to properly recognise and reflect the importance of unpaid caring work, and make their systems flexible to take account of different working and caring patterns. Advice should also be made available to individuals to enable them to take up options that can cover periods of care and resulting changes in working patterns.
Finally, the EOC wants to try and close the pensions gap between men and women by making it a shared responsibility to save for a second pension. At the moment research has revealed men, on average, get a weekly private pension income which is £50 to £100 more than women. To combat this, the EOC suggests building on existing contributory principles to make individuals, employers and the State all take responsibility for adding to an individual’s pension saving.
The campaign believes unpaid work of parents and carers should be recognised and rewarded by State contributions to a second pension, while people in low income employment should also qualify for State help. In addition, the campaign wants employers to recognise their responsibility and pay into pension schemes for all their employees.
With two thirds of pensioners being women, the EOC argues their needs, and the desire for independence and equality, should be at the heart of the pensions debate and not seen as a ‘minority’ issue.Alasdair Buchanan, group head of communications at Scottish Life, says the issues facing women in retirement are not new and it is clear something has to be done. He says: “If nothing else, the system definitely needs to be changed to include a baseline where people who may not have any personal savings of their own, which could include carers and low income or part-time workers, are not living in poverty during their retirement.”
If you have any comments you would like to add to this story or would like to speak to its author about a similar subject, telephone Nyree Stewart on 020 7968 4558 or email [email protected].IFAonline
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