There is now strong evidence from a number of sources that women have been harder hit than men by the government's benefit changes and cuts to public services.
The cost of living squeeze caused by the failure of wages to keep pace with inflation has also eaten into their finances to an alarming extent.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the number of women saving adequately for their pensions has hit an all-time low, but it is nevertheless deeply worrying.
Men's pension provision is not up to the level it should be by a long way, but women are faring considerably worse. Scottish Widows highlights that only around 40% of women are saving enough for retirement, compared with 49% of men, and also that 37% of women have no pension at all.
There are two related aspects to this problem. The first is the impact of the recession, which has caused the cost of living squeeze. The second is a more structural problem, namely that women are over-represented in low-paid and part-time jobs. Since women spend less time at work than men and usually in lower-paid jobs, their pensions are worth less. With many already struggling to make ends meet, the cost of living squeeze has impacted on them particularly harshly. Women on modest incomes often feel that a pension is a luxury they cannot afford, especially if they are supporting a family. A single mother who struggles to pay for rent, food and bills is unlikely to see building up a pension pot as a priority.
The recession has also impacted on those women who do have pensions, meanwhile. Low interest rates and the poor return on investments mean that the rate of return individuals get back from their pension pot is now lower than ever.
Even without the recession, however, women are disadvantaged in pension terms. In the middle of the hectic years when a couple have a young family, questions about individual pensions may seem irrelevant. The couple work as a partnership, pooling resources. One partner, usually the woman, typically gives up work or goes part-time to look after the children while the man continues to earn as before. If they divorce, it is therefore the woman who loses out the most in pension terms, as a result of not having earned as much. The importance of women planning their retirement provision in isolation from their husbands', is therefore a mantra often repeated by pension advisers.
The government's legislation requiring employers automatically to enrol workers aged over 22 with an income of £9440 into a workplace pension, should make for a more financially comfortable retirement than the basic state pension and will hopefully reduce the number of women who have no pension. At the same time, campaigns encouraging women them to pay more into their pensions could also help. Broader efforts to boost women's standard of living, however, such as raising and enforcing the minimum wage, and tackling the gender pay gap, will be essential if this sex divide in pension provision is to be overcome.
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