Friday, 9 August, 2019

Our friends at the trade union Prospect, have been campaigning about the gender pension gap, something that is an inevitable consequence of the ongoing gender pay gap. One more reason why we need to take action as we approach the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Pay Act 1970. Below, is their guest blog on this subject.

Prospect union has been campaigning on the gender pension gap – the percentage difference in pension income for female pensioners compared to male pensioners – for many years.

Prospect's first report in 2018 included:

  • research showing that the UK’s gender pension gap was 39.5% in 2016-17
  • analysis of the causes of the gap and
  • policies to tackle it.

The report exposed the scale of the problem and the true level of gender inequality in retirement income for the first time. We believe this helped to raise the profile of the issue – which is vital to making the case for action.

Prospect’s 2019 gender pension gap report builds on our previous work and includes an estimate of the UK’s gender pension gap in 2017-18, further relevant analyses and a summary of the main developments in the past year.

Prospect's latest research shows that the UK’s gender pension gap actually increased to 39.9% in 2017-18. 

This is more than twice the gender pay gap of 17.9% in 2018 and represents an average difference in pension income by gender of about £7,000 a year. 

This increase in gender inequality should be a call to action for policymakers and others.

Causes

The main causes of the gender pension gap are:

  • Inequality in the average level of state pension awarded to men and women. This is not projected to be fully addressed until about 2041 (but only for people reaching State Pension Age from that year).
  • Women taking breaks from paid employment or reducing their working hours to look after family.
  • The cumulative impact over time of women earning less on average than men (the gender pay gap).

The gender pension gap has to be tackled because it results in women having less comfortable retirements than men and being more likely to suffer anxiety about their finances. 

By the time women realise they are affected, it is usually too late for them to do anything.

Solutions

Prospect is calling for:

  • A statutory requirement for the government to report to Parliament on the gender pension gap and its plans for tackling it.
  • An additional state pension credit worth £2 a week for each year that someone is not working because they are looking after children under 12.
  • Affordable childcare so that people who want to return to work can do so.
  • Reform of automatic enrolment to scrap the earnings trigger and ensure that contributions are paid from the first pound earned.
  • An independent Commission to consider the appropriate level of contributions under automatic enrolment.
  • A concerted campaign to encourage higher take-up of credits that can boost women’s pension income.
  • Changes to the tax system to resolve the problem whereby low earners in ‘net pay’ pension schemes do not benefit from tax relief on their contributions.

Prospect has started a petition calling for a statutory requirement on the Department for Work and Pensions to report annually on the gender pension gap. 

The petition will close on 30 January 2020 – please sign it and encourage others to do so too.

Prospect is an independent trade union representing more than 142,000 working people across the UK. Our members include professionals, managers, scientists and engineers working in a huge range of industries. Our members in the media and entertainment industries are part of our BECTU sector.

This is a guest blog and the views of the author are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.