Women left with half the pension pot, no matter the job

by | Jul 30, 2022

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  • Women’s pensions at retirement are half the size of men’s (£12,000 versus £26,000), regardless of the sector they work in.
  • More than a third (38%) of women who have taken a career break did not know the long-term financial impact it would have on their pension.
  • Legal & General is calling for all companies and pension providers to disclose their gender pensions gap, to raise awareness of it and work together to help close it across all sectors.

Analysis of more than 4.5 million savers has found that that every single industry in the UK has a gender pensions gap, even those dominated by female workers.

On average, women’s pensions are half the size of men’s (£12,000 versus £26,000). Considering women are likely to live four years2 longer than men, this issue deepens as they need to have saved around five to seven per cent more at retirement age.

The study by Legal & General found the gender pensions gap exists regardless of average pay across different sectors, and ranges from a gap of 59% in the healthcare industry, to 13% in courier services.

The healthcare (59%), construction (51%), real estate/property development (48%), pharmaceutical (46%), aerospace, defence and government services (46%), and senior care (45%) sectors were found to have the largest gender pensions gaps. Of these six sectors, three are key industries for female employment – healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and senior care3.

Top sectors for female employment and their pensions gap

Sector

Pensions gap

Healthcare

59%

Pharmaceuticals

46%

Senior Care

45%

Leisure Travel & Tourism

29%

Charity

29%

Source: Legal & General analysis of workplace member data from defined contribution pension schemes, 2022

 Many different factors have led to the gender pensions gap but very few solutions are offered

There are many reasons for the gender pensions gap, ranging from women holding fewer senior positions and being paid less, resulting in lower pensions contributions, to the fact they are more likely to take career breaks due to caring responsibilities. Of those that have taken a career break, 38% did not know the financial impact it had on their pension contributions4.

Another potential driver is a significant gender confidence gap when it comes to managing pension pots. More than a quarter (28%) of women said they had confidence in their ability to make decisions about their pension, compared to almost half (48%) of men5. This lack of confidence extends further to other financial decisions, with women less likely than men to feel confident managing their investments (22% of women versus 41% of men), and their savings (56% of women versus 67% of men).

Katharine Photiou, Commercial Director of Workplace Savings at Legal & General said, “We looked at data from over four million workplace members and found that every industry in the UK has a significant gender pensions gap. This is a serious issue in itself, but it deepens when life expectancy is taken into consideration too.

“We’ve all heard about the gender pay gap, but very few discuss the gender pensions gap, despite the fact so many women experience it. This shows more needs to be done to boost engagement with pensions, particularly with those who feel less confident, and who may need help on where to start when it comes to making financial decisions.

“Millions of people would benefit from a wider range of support services to make more informed decisions about their savings and investments. But this support needs to be personalised to achieve any real shift, and this is where government and industry need to work together. Pensions can seem complicated but they’re just a regular savings plan with some tax perks. We need to demystify pensions and get back to basics.”

Legal & General is calling for all companies and pension providers to disclose their gender pensions gap, to raise awareness of it and work together to help close it across all sectors. For full details on Legal & General’s suggested solutions to close the gender pensions gap, please see notes to editors*.

Rita Butler-Jones, Co-Head of Defined Contribution at Legal & General said, “It is striking that some of the sectors where we see the highest gender pensions gaps – such as senior care, healthcare and pharmaceuticals – are also among the top sectors for female employment. This demonstrates the extent of the crisis facing many women as they approach retirement, even in careers where they make up the majority of the workforce. 

“There is therefore a real need for providers, schemes and government to work together to understand and tackle both the sector-specific and structural barriers which women face in saving for their future.”    

While many factors behind the gender pension gap are out of most people’s control, there are some actions you can take to help reduce it:

  • Contribute as much as you can to your pension – and start early. Compound interest remains hugely underrated and poorly understood by both men and women.
  • Check the charges on your historic pension pots. See if consolidating your pots will bring them down.
  • Plan for a future full of Saturdays. Everyone underestimates how much they’ll need.
  • Likewise, check how much your State Pension will be and when you’ll get it. If it’s not going to support your ideal lifestyle, plan how you’ll cover any shortfall.
  • Put a bit more into your pension whenever you get a pay rise.
  • Talk through your pension planning with your partner. Make sure you know about each other’s saving plans, contribution limits and that you are both on the same page.
  • Carry out a regular Midlife MOT. It’ll help you see how your finances are doing, and allow you to check in on your work and health wellbeing too.
  • Make use of free support like the MoneyHelper or Retirement Living Standards websites. You can also check out our own planning tools.
  • Keep a regular eye on your pension to make sure you’re in full control of it and saving for your ideal future.

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