The EU Council of Ministers has called for more action on the gender pension gap. The gap stands currently at 38.5%, meaning that older women earn 2/5th less compared to older men, both from private and public pensions. It is a result of many disadvantages women face throughout the lifetime. AGE welcomes the increasing attention put on the gender pension gap, but highlights that these words should also be put into action in the area of pension reforms.
Council’s call for research
The Council of EU Ministers on Employment, Social affairs, Consumer and Health (EPSCO) has adopted conclusions on the gender pension gap on 18/06/2015. It was mainly the Latvian presidency who has pushed for the adoption of these conclusions. They recognise the multi-faceted nature of causes that result in the gender pension gap. The conclusions call upon EU member states and the Commission to promote research into the causes and consequences of the gender gap in pensions, to develop a statistical indicator that takes full account of the gap and to include gender mainstreaming in all policies, especially on demographics and social protection. Also, the Council calls for tackling the issue as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy, which is due to review this autumn, and in the new EU Gender Equality Strategy after 2015.
Actions proposed: promote women’s employment and address older women’s risk of poverty
The Council recommends some solutions to member states, mainly to promote women’s employment through employment policies, the provision of affordable and accessible quality care for children and other dependants, to eliminate fiscal disincentives for women to work, to increase the offer of life-long learning opportunities and to fight gender stereotypes.
The Council invites member states to reduce the risk of poverty among older women and to conduct impact assessments on the impact of pension policies on gender equality. Also, the Council wants career interruptions because of care responsibilities to be compensated for by social protection measures.
Pension reforms: often leaving out the gender component
AGE Platform Europe welcomes the adoption of the conclusions by the Council. They correctly identify many causes and issues resulting in the discrimination of older women by pension systems. AGE Platform Europe will use the conclusions to remind member states and the Commission of the urgent need to take action; otherwise the gap is at risk of widening in the future.
Despite the remarkable increase of women’s labour market participation in the last years, which will result in additional pension rights for future older women, recent pension reforms have often been blind on gender issues. Pensionable ages are not yet equalised between men and women in all EU countries, and policies to prolong working lives often take no account of the fact that many women leave the labour market earlier than men. Also, the shift from statutory, publicly funded pension systems, to privately funded occupational and third-pillar pension schemes has a disproportionate impact on women, who often have a more disrupted career than men, as women more often take up care responsibilities in the family. AGE Platform believes that the gender impact of pension reforms has to be tackled in the pension system as well.
The other areas of action proposed by the Council – promotion of women’s employment, individualised taxation and benefits, investment in affordable and accessible care systems are however very important and relevant actions, as these have the potential to lower the pension gap in the longer term.
Work-life balance: call for a carer’s leave as part of a package on work-life balance
AGE is particularly pleased to see the call for compensation for caring times in social protection in the list of recommendations agreed upon by the Council of Ministers. AGE has called several times already for a European regulation on carer’s leave, which would provide the opportunity to reconcile work and care for children and dependent family members, and the inclusion of caring times in the acquisition of pension rights. These should be part of a broader package on work-life balance.
- Council conclusions: Equal income opportunities for women and men: Closing the gender gap in pensions, 9302/15 of 4 June 2015 (adopted by EPSCO Council on 18/06/2015)
- European Institute for Gender Equality, Gender gap in pensions in the EU, Research note to the Latvian Presidency
- Tinios et al., Men, Women and Pensions, European Commission – DG Justice 2015.