Women aged between 65 and 74 years old have saved half as much money for retirement as men the same age, according to analysis conducted by Scottish Widows to mark this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th.
It reveals that women in this age group will on average have pension savings worth £130,000, whereas men will retire with £260,000 in their pot[i].
While the gap between the proportion of men and women saving adequately – defined as putting away a minimum of 12% of their salaries – disappeared for the first time on record in 2021, for older women these recent improvements have had limited impact.
Many women of the so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation took on the role as the main carer at home, often taking career breaks to look after young children. Many then returned to work on a part-time basis − women today make up 75% of all part-time workers[ii]. This has often been so that they could continue to manage childcare, as well as take on additional caring responsibilities for elderly parents.
Despite the same proportion of men and women now saving adequately, men still save more than women. The latest Scottish Widows Women and Retirement Report reveals that on average men who save are putting 16% of pay aside for retirement, while women save just 13.5% of their salary. Added to this, women on average earn 35% less than men during their careers, with median salaries of £20,500 compared with £31,400 for men[iii].
All these factors have significantly impacted women’s pay packets and pension contributions through the years. With the theme of this year’s IWD, #BreakTheBias, in mind, Scottish Widows is calling for a number of changes to overcome these structural inequalities and help women achieve pension parity.
Cost of living bites
There are growing concerns that as the cost-of-living intensifies, with energy bills predicted to rise by 54% next month and inflation currently running at 5.4%, many pensioners could see their retirement savings being squeezed, and women with smaller monthly incomes will be hit hardest.
Jackie Leiper, Managing Director of Workplace Savings, Scottish Widows, said: “Despite the progress that’s been made in recent years by getting more women to save adequately for their retirement, there’s still a mountain to climb to reach true pensions parity. For women in their 60s and 70s, the choices are limited: carry on working or live a more frugal retirement?
“By shining a light on the significant gender pension gap that exists for women of all ages this International Women’s Day, we hope we can accelerate the positive changes we’re seeing so that future generations aren’t counting the cost of gender inequality in retirement.”
Calling for change
In its Women and Retirement Report, Scottish Widows called for a number of changes to help close the gender pension gap for future generations. This includes enhancing maternity pensions, equalising shared parental leave rights, addressing costs of childcare, and making it compulsory for pensions to be included in divorce proceedings.
Despite the Government last month freezing the earnings trigger, which is the minimum amount an employee has to earn to qualify for automatic enrolment into their workplace pension, Scottish Widows is reiterating its demand to scrap these thresholds. It is also campaigning for the scheme to be evolved so that the minimum age is lowered from 22 to 18 and default contributions are raised, all of which would help close the gender pension gap.
Scottish Widows is also helping women plan for the future today by partnering with Smartpurse, a financial wellness service aimed at women. A range of resources will be available through the partnership, including an online financial health check tool, Money School bite size courses and self-guided programmes to help women take charge of their financial futures.
You can access Scottish Widows’ latest Women and Retirement Report here.
[i] Source: ONS Wealth and Assets Survey: Private pension wealth (active, preserved or in payment), summary statistics by age and sex
[ii] Source: Labour Force Survey: EMP01 Full-time, part-time and temporary workers (seasonally adjusted)
[iii] ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2020