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Increase in state pension age for women
It’s been said that the state pension system assumes that if you’re a man you have a pension and if you’re a woman you have a husband. It has always been difficult for a woman to get a fair pension out of the system and recent changes have been no exception.
Women in their 50s face having to wait up to two extra years before they can claim their basic state pension, as a result of the Coalition Government’s decision to fast track the increase in state pension age from 2016 for both sexes.
In its Coalition Agreement, the Government promised that the pension age for women would not start increasing before 2020, but it now plans to increase their pension age from 2016.
Half a million women face a pension age rise of over one year and over 300,000 will face a delay of over 18 months.
There is clearly strong feeling that the Government is not acting correctly on this. Many women who have already retired to care for relatives or who are not well enough to work face an unexpected gap in their income which they will have extreme difficulty plugging.
Many women in their 50s have not had much of a chance to build up private pensions because they may have had fewer years in work due to bringing up children. Many will not have been eligible to join company pension schemes because they worked part time or did not stay with the same employer long enough to qualify for membership.
Yet the Government is making these women bear the brunt of cost saving measures designed to save money on pensions over the long term.
Of the women affected by this change, around 35% are single and have no husband’s state pension to fall back on and 40% have no private pension.
Of those women who do have a private personal pension, it is worth a tenth of the average male’s private pension, while for those women with a final salary pension, it is half the size of the average male’s final salary pension.
Women are therefore often far more reliant on the state pension then men. The chances of them finding work in their 50s, (assuming that they are well enough to work) are slim, given ongoing ageism in the workplace and their lack of skills (if they have been out of the workforce for a long time).
While the argument about the need to increase state pension age in line with increases in longevity is well made, it does not justify this sudden increase being imposed on a group of women who are have been seriously disadvantaged by the system from the beginning.