Great Gender Divide Leaves Women In Pension Poverty

By Retirement

Equality for men and women may have been under the spotlight for decades, but when money and pensions are considered, the gender gap is still far too wide.

Research across the European Union shows that while the gender pay gap has narrowed to 16% in favour of men, women are still facing pension poverty.

Although the bottom and top rates for the gap are 4% and 49%, women in more than half of EU countries have 30% less pension savings than men.

“Not only do women face persistent difficulties in finding affordable childcare, getting hired at the appropriate level and receiving equal pay and equal opportunities, at the end of their career they face greater pressure to look after relatives, as well as other, perhaps less well-known hurdles,” said a report from employment benefits consultancy Mercer.

Pension rules discriminate against women

“Older women are more likely than their male counterparts to be discriminated against due to perception that they have outdated skills, are too slow to learn new things or that they will deliver an unsatisfactory job,” says the report.

“Many women will actually be forced to work longer than men will in order to build sufficient savings for their retirement years.”

Mercer also claims annual pension caps stop many women who have missed contributions while taking career breaks to bring up a family from catching up with retirement saving.

The company decided that pension rules were designed for men with a 40 year working life and failed to meet the needs of most women.

Income-linked problems

This resulted in a pension gap starting early in women’s careers and worsening in later years.

Eve Read, principal and head of proposition for defined contribution and financial wellness at Mercer, said: “Companies should review their benefits plans and communications through a gender lens to ensure they address the specific issues and needs of the female workforce.

“Most EU pensions systems are income linked which means that those earning less, working part-time or taking career breaks to care for children or older family members, accrue less pension. Though some company plans try to bridge this gap, Mercer’s research shows that less than 10% of organisations offer retirement or savings programs customised to different working patterns.”

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