Women Deserve Pension Equality; MONDAY VIEW ROS ALTMANN Pensions Expert

Article excerpt

Byline: ROS ALTMANN

WOMEN'S pensions in this country have quite rightly been described as a 'national disgrace'.

The UK state pension system discriminates against women. It was designed in the 1950s, when most women stayed at home, stayed married and relied on their husband's finances.

We live in another era, where women need their own pension rights as individuals who play a worthwhile role in society, whether or not they are married and whether or not they work outside the home.

Continued improvements in life expectancy mean that more women are likely to live to celebrate their 80th and 90th birthdays and beyond.

This makes it even more vital that they have the tools to provide for themselves in retirement.

Pensions have two functions. Firstly, as social insurance to prevent poverty in retirement.

This is an obvious role for state pensions.

Secondly, pensions are an investment vehicle for people to save money for a better lifestyle later.

This is more naturally a private pension function, but most women obviously cannot accrue as much private pension as men because they earn less.

Most of the [pounds sterling]10bn a year spent on tax relief - which enhances the value of private pensions - goes to high-paid men.

The disgrace is that not only will women probably have much lower private pensions, but their state pensions will also be lower.

That is because the state pension depends on contributions from waged work which penalises lower-paid workers and carers - often women.

Two-thirds of pensioners are women and most of them must claim meanstested pension credit to avoid poverty.

This is because fewer women have husbands to rely on nowadays, and also because the state pension has been continuously cut over the years.

So women are losing out twice.

UK state pensions are about the lowest of any developed country. Only 31pc of women age 65-69 get the full state pension, compared to 85pc of men. …