Thursday's Commons debate about the changes to the pensions of women born in the 1950s is an opportunity for the government to address pension inequality for all British women.
MPs are set to discuss on Thursday changes announced in 1995 that had the effect of delaying the state pensions of more than two million women without proper notice and in some cases advised women less than two years ahead of their retirement date that they would have to work another 18 months for their state pension.
"We are concerned for the women who have been unfairly penalised by these arrangements," said Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party (WE). "WE are also deeply concerned for the many millions of women who will live out their retirement in poverty because of insufficient pension provision."
Women are already much more likely to retire in poverty than men because they carry more caring responsibilities that keep them out of the workplace and force them to take part-time and lower paid jobs. Women’s average total retirement income is £14,300 a year compared with £19,100 for men.
"It is vital that we support those on low pay to make adequate provision for their retirement," Walker said. "The Women’s Equality Party is the only party calling for a new single rate of pension tax relief at 25 percent, with the aim of providing a substantial boost to the pension savings of all low earners, most of whom are women."
Thursday’s debate has been triggered by a petition campaign on the parliamentary website by Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) that gathered more than 100,000 votes.
"WE support WASPI’s campaign to slow the adoption of these pension arrangements, which are being forced onto women without allowing them sufficient time to plan their retirement," Walker said. "WE are meeting the women behind WASPI’s campaign, and look forward to working with them to find alternative plans which are both fair and economically viable."
Changes to the state pension were announced in 1995, in order to bring the qualifying age for women in line with that for men by 2020. This increase, from 60 to 65, was accelerated in the 2011 Pensions Act, which set women’s retired age at 65 by 2018, and 66 by October 2020.
"While WE support the principle that men and women should be entitled to their pension at the same age, many women have suffered as a result of these too-swift changes to the law," Walker said.
The Women’s Equality Party is also campaigning for better pay and childcare provision for women in low-income jobs, so that they avoid the risk of retirement poverty.
Notes to editors:
The Women’s Equality Party are committed to ending the cycle of too many women living their retirement in poverty. Policies that will directly address this include:
- Introducing a 25% single rate of tax relief to boost the pension savings of all low earners
- Funding fully equal parental leave so that both parents get six weeks away from work on 90% of pay, followed by 10 months to be shared between parents – helping keep women in working roles in the long term
- Ensuring state-funded Statutory Maternity Pay is available to all working mothers, regardless of length of service, to protect low-paid women and those on zero hours contracts – helping keep women in work and making pension contributions in the long term
The Women’s Equality Party was founded by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer in March 2015, and launched its policies on 20 October. Read the full policy document here.
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