People ‘must save’ to tackle gender pension gap

Women must save more for their retirement if the gender gap in pension provision is to be addressed, ministers have warned today.

The government has pledged to tackle the fact that just 30 per cent of women currently retire on a full state pension, compared to 85 per cent of men.

But women’s minister Meg Munn warned that women must take individual action to prepare for their retirement by making sure they save.

“Women who are not saving could see the independence they currently enjoy replaced with financial dependence on the state in retirement. This is a situation most will not want to find themselves in, and must be addressed,” she said.

One of the main problems with the state pension is that it is related to a person’s earnings over their lifetime. As a result, many women who leave work to look after their children, or work part-time, end up with a minimum entitlement.

Under the pensions white paper announced earlier this year, social work such as caring for children or elderly relatives would be given the same status in terms of pension entitlement as other work.

The government has insisted that the test of its plans must be whether it benefits the lot of the millions of women currently retiring on a tiny pension, and hopes to have 90 per cent of women on the full state pension by 2025.

But today pensions minister James Purnell warned that individuals must also take responsibility for their future.

Government research reveals that just 38 per cent of women contribute to a private pension compared to 46 per cent of men. Those that do contribute put in significantly less than men, with most likely to contribute less than £100 a month.

“Half of all women stop saving for retirement when they have children,” Mr Purnell said.

“Our reforms recognise this caring role with a new contributory principle – making the state pension system fairer for women and carers who take time away from employment to raise children or look after others.

“But most people would expect to have more than just a state pension in retirement.”

The government’s plans include a new national saving scheme into which employees would be automatically enrolled, to encourage them to save for their old age.