The gender pension gap

Tackling the gender pension gap 2019


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

Our latest research shows that it increased to 39.9% in 2017-18. This was more than twice the level of the gender pay gap that year (17.9%).

The gender pension gap is particularly detrimental because it starts to affect women when there is little they can do about it.

A huge barrier to tackling the gender pension gap is the government’s lack of attention to it. There is no government estimate of the gender pension gap or policies to address it.

Prospect has launched a petition on the Parliament petition website to put pressure the government to take this more seriously.

Our report shows that the main causes of the gender pension gap are:

  • inequality in the average level of state pension awarded to men and women
  • the impact of women taking breaks from paid employment or reducing hours worked to look after family
  • the cumulative impact over time of women earning less on average than men (the gender pay gap).

There are also numerous instances of indirect gender discrimination built into the pension system itself.

To tackle the gender pension gap 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 per week for each year that someone is not working due to looking after children under 12
  • measures that make affordable childcare more widely available in order to help people who want to return to work do so
  • reform of automatic enrollment from the earliest possible date so pension contributions are paid from the first pound and the earnings trigger is scrapped
  • an independent Commission to consider the appropriate level of contributions under automatic enrollment.
  • 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.

Our report on the gender pension gap contains more information about this.

Further reading

  • The report refers to a letter Prospect wrote to the chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to request a formal investigation of the Secretary of State’s failure to tackle the gender pension gap. Read the letter
  • In July 2019 Prospect’s pension officer wrote a blog about a government initiative on gender inequality in retirement income undertaken after Prospect’s complaint to the EHRC. Read the blog