Women need to work additional 18 years to close gender pensions gap

Women would need to work an additional 18 years in full-time employment to save the same amount of money into their pension as men, a new report by Now Pensions and the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) has revealed.

It was also discovered that one in six women are currently ineligible for automatic enrolment, despite women’s employment rate being at its highest since records began (72.7 per cent).

The report warned that this ineligibility is leading millions to miss out on vital pension savings and dramatically increasing their risk of pensioner poverty, detailing that by the time women reach retirement age, they will have an average of £69,000 in their pension, £136,800 less than the average man who will have saved £205,800 in the same period.

It also revealed that, while the average UK pension pot has almost doubled to £111,600, women’s savings have “hardly increased at all” and, if inflation and the cost of living are taken into account, women are “arguably in a worse position than before”.

Now Pensions added that, with women living on average four years longer than men, women need to have saved more throughout their lifetime to accommodate a longer time in retirement and close the gender pension gap.

The research also showed the difference in working patterns between men and women throughout their careers, with 27 per cent of women working mostly full-time throughout their career compared to 45 per cent of men.

Women spend an average of 10 years away from the workforce to start families and care for children and relatives, contributing to both the gender pay and pensions gaps by presenting fewer opportunities for career progression and higher salaries, according to the report.

In addition, the cost of childcare was found to be a hindrance for many working households, topping the average cost of a mortgage for many.

Now Pensions chair of trustees, Joanne Segars, commented: “It is now a decade since auto-enrolment was launched and it just proves what a powerful tool inertia has been to get over 10 million new savers into auto-enrolment.

“However, it is by no means a perfect picture as almost the same number of people (10.4 million) are currently ineligible. Women make up the biggest proportion of part-time workers in the UK and with reduced hours comes reduced pay. Millions of women have not been able to save via a workplace pension, nor take advantage of their employer contributions and the tax relief.

“Pension policies and regulations have not kept pace with how many of us now live and work, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. That is why we have been lobbying the government to fix these inequalities and enable ‘under-pensioned’ groups the same opportunity to build their retirement pot as others enjoy.”

Flex Appeal author and founder, Anna Whitehouse, added: "Flexible working is the number one way that we will close the gender pay gap.

“So, the idea that women are being penalised in later life by the gender pensions gap for working flexibly and therefore being able to work at all is exhausting. If women did not work flexibly and take on caring responsibilities, the economy would crumble.

“That this additional penalty is falling on women when they are at their most vulnerable is beyond cruel. We need to start supporting women; we need to level the playing field, and we need to start to close these gaps before things get any worse."

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