Women hit hardest by state pension changes

2011 has been the year of pension changes. The UK's creaking pensions landscape is - without exaggeration - entering a period of unprecedented upheaval, with another Pensions Bill navigating its way through Parliament; the abolition of the default retirement age; and, most recently, Lord Hutton's report on public sector pensions.

However, one of the changes that has caused the most uproar is the government's decision to accelerate the increase in the state pension age to 66 by 2020. While seemingly sensible, in practice this proposal discriminates against a particular group of women - and runs directly against the Coalition Agreement, which promised that women's state pension age would not rise beyond 65 before 2020.

So who exactly is affected?

Those women born between 1953 and 1955 (now aged between 55 and 58) will bear most of the brunt. Not only have they already seen their pension age increase from 60 to around 63 or 64 in the 1995 Pensions Act, they are now supposed to accept another increase in pension age, beginning in 2016. 

While they quietly accepted the initial increase in 1995, and set about planning their finances in preparation for receiving their state pension at the new higher age, this latest decision to increase the age to 66 has proven to be the tipping point for many.  

This is because it's the second time women have been hit - and not just by a further year. For many, it will mean up to another two years' delay. And also because the government is giving them very little time to realistically make up for the loss of thousands of pounds of state pension income they were relying on.

Indeed, with the pension age already quite close, many of these women have already retired to care for relatives and now find that their financial plans are in tatters.   


It's important to remember that women are already at a pension disadvantage relative to men. This is especially the case with this generation of women, who earned far less during their working lives, were often barred from joining private pension schemes when they started working, and often had their careers interrupted to raise children.

Most are currently not earning enough to be able to save the thousands of pounds necessary to replace the state pension that is being taken away from them.

There are fairer and more sensible ways the government could have chosen. Ideally, it would be best to delay the increase in women's pension age until 2020, and then allow men's and women's pension ages to rise in tandem to 66 over the next year. This would allow more time to prepare, affect fewer people and not interfere with the existing timetable of pension age changes.

Alternatively, the government could limit rises to no more than one extra year within 10 years of the expected pension date, or at the very least it could leave Pension Credit eligibility at the existing women's state pension age to help the poorest women - and men - negotiate the change. 

It's also important to remember that this will affect not just the 35% of women who are single when they retire and often wholly reliant on the state pension, but entire families, who will be forced to find ways to make up for the government's determination to wring additional savings from our already strained pensions system. 

I've been inundated with angry, desperate letters and emails from affected women, and sincerely hope the government will rethink its unfair timetable. We have sufficient notice of such significant changes - fairness surely demands it.

Your Comments

Thanks for this info I didn't realise it affected me I thought I could retire at 63y 4 mths with my birthday being 22.9.53 This Govt have to pick up money from somewhere to pay for tony blairs war and gordon browns financial hic ups but why pension age. Is there nothing to be done

The cost of being fair to this relatively small number of women would not be great. The admirable Dr. Altman has explained the unfairness in a fairly restrained manner, perhaps she needs to be a little more forceful.

This government is discriminating against a small number of women, they must think that those of us in that 2 year period are too small in number to care about.
My sister, who is 2 and a half years older than me, will receive her state pension at age 62. I will have to wait until I am 66 to get mine. Only 2 and a half years between us but she will benefit from 3 and a half year's extra pension. That does not constitute 'fairness'.

I have joked in the past that the nearer I get to retirement age, the further away it will move - I'm not joking anymore.

I'm afraid I can't agree with the thrust of this article. The facts are that women live longer than men and currently get a better pension than men because of this. These changes will only make things more equal. If the proposals to pay a flat rate state pension irrespective of contributions is introduced, this will further advantage women, the self employed and others who have paid minimal national insurance contributions.
I see no reason why women can't make adequate pension provision. I suggest they get their rich husbands to pay into a stakeholder pension for them and get some tax relief on it

Women have been, will always be treated unfairly, I have paid into a pension scheme for most of my working life, but if I had the time to go back I wouldn't bother, as I believe, the people who have not paid into a pension scheme will be better off in the long run as they/their families still will be provided for.

I think the retirement age is too high anyway compared with other countries, we need to get the 18-30 year old's into work/trained before our generation have retired or else our country will be seen to do too little too late once again!!

I do not at all agree with the thrust of this article.Over the last few years great advances have been made with regard to equality of women in our society.Under Labour,Despite Conservative opposition,pension contributions for women were reduced from a 39 years requirement to only 30 years,and the amount paid was equalised with men. Not only that,but again despite Conservative opposition,Labour passed legislation to punish those who failed to pay women at the same level as men.A woman who retires now, receives the same state pesion as a man, but receives it several years earlier,and statistically, will receive it to a greater age than a man. Therefore it is men that are now being discriminated against, both as regarding retiral age, and regarding the amount of pension they will receive during the total of their remaining years. Quite rightly,discrimination on the grounds of sex is illegal in this country,I see no reason why this should not apply to retiral and pensions too. It would have been fairer to first REDUCE the retiral age of men until it reached that of women, but that did not stand a chance due to cost. An alternative would have been to reduce the retiral age of men by a year, each time that of women was increased, until they both became equal, and then start increasing both together if required.
The justification for raising pension age has been on the grounds of an aging population. There are not enough young people entering the workforce to replace those retiring, and subsequently not enough going into the pension pot. Why then, has Government not taken steps to get the younger population educated ot trained, and into work earlier? School starting age is ever lower, and finishing age higher, but there is little evidence of any improvement in the general education standard of the population.Quite the oppsite.Now there is a plan to raise compulsory education until the age of 18.For what?It has been rerported today that 40% of university graduates have to take a low level job. What a surprise! That is because we simply have too many graduates qualifying in subjects for which there are not enough jobs, and too many studying ridiculous subjects that will never get them a job.As for PAYING reluctant 16-18 year olds
to stay in school.That is ridiculous, and part of the problem, not the solution.

I agree that it is extremely unfair to target women born between 1953 and 1955 - again. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with my husband, while we could still enjoy it. Now he is ill and we may not get the time together that we were planning, as I have to continue working to pay the bills. Has anyone thought about suing the government under the Sex Discrimination Act ?

In addition, as so many women are now having to continue working after they reach 60 and employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of age, there are many younger people (our son included) who cannot find any work whatsoever, because the jobs are simply no longer there. Then they are told they have run out of benefits and are no longer officially unemployed !! - thus lowering the official number of unemployed in the UK. This heartless and inappropriate government is taking this country back to Victorian times and should be stopped before they go too far.

Well,well,what happened to the forecast that people could retire earlier than our parents and there would be jobs for the younger generation. If we manage to keep our health a few years off 70yrs,then us old boys and girls can enjoy our retirement if we last that long,hey! we can have 5years,it's nice to be appreciated. And I do not have a rich husband,just a good one. Here's looking at you kid!

comments about 'their rich husbands' make me mad - as a single woman (never married) I am responsible for my own future welfare, but don't find the government's moving goal posts terribly helpful

When I worked for the health service there were plenty of single and married women working & drawing their state pensions, boasting about their wealth as well as not having to pay NI or prescription charges & having bus passes. How is that fair?

I fall into the "hardest hit" bracket - with my birth date being 30 March 1954. I have worked for over 40 years since 1970 leaving school at the age of 16 years - and only having 12 months off despite having 2 children. I initially thought I would retire at 60 - it has since been moved up and up until now I will be 66 before I retire - unless this government decide to move the goal posts again. I voted conservative - but NEVER NEVER again I feel cheated and I will struggle to carry on working until I am 60 - I am a professional working in the legal profession but I will be ready to finish at 60 but will not be able to afford to do so. Also what about the fact that us "old timers" will at 66 be blocking jobs for younger people - it is just WRONG !

oh brilliant...I took early retirement thinking I would have my state pension to look forward to in 6 years...now it will be 8 years...if I happen to die before I get it I think I will haunt No. 10.
I left school at 15 years and one week old., and other than a couple of years off to bring up children, I have worked, and hard! I didn't know about the 30 years of N.I. payments and duly turned up at my local Jobcentre, although I wasn't due any money, I thought I still had to sign on.
I made adequate pension arrangements while working, and now hopefully there is a young person in my place, if we all keep working until we drop, there won't be many jobs for young ones to go into, which is a shame!

It is keeep saying, that it will affect the women born between 1953 and 1955, the most. It has already affected me, I was born January 1951, and that makes me 60 now. I still have not received my pension, and they keep moving the goalposts. I can't claim pension credit, and have been told, I miss getting the heating allowance this year, by 14 days. So had I been born 14 days earlier, I woul now be gettin the heating allowence this year. When I started work at 15, they told me I would retire at 60, I also had on my 60th birthday, 2 years more stamps, than I needed to claim a full pension. So why did they not say, all the women with the full amount of stamps, and are 60 now, can claim their pension. As for not getting the £155, that they are proposing, in the next few years, because existing pensioners, will not get it, is disgusting, and it is discrimiating. How can they get away with it, it is not just a few pounds difference, it is 50% difference, which is a lot. So will the lower paid pensioners, still be able to claim pension credit, to make it up? If not, there will be a riot. No wonder no one, wants to work these days, if I had known then, what I know now. I would of never bothered working, and paying all those extra stamps, that I paid, so that when I reached 60, I could not claim my pension.

I am 33. Realistically I am coming to realise that more and more retirement for me will be a cardboard box in the reception area that gets taken to the incinerator at the end of the day!

Im afraid i disagree with jds comment yes women may live longer than men in theory some do some dont yes increase thw retirement age if it has to be done but i have to work another 3 yrs why not do it in increments of 1 yr extra to your retirement slowly bringing it to 65 i have made adequate pension provision but being a women straight away being discriminated against who is it that stops work to look after the children usually women who has to usually take part time hours on to accomodate the children women again .......... then to be told you cant pay in to the superanuation pension fund because you are part time unfair again to women and looking at it from the information i have it is the younger generation that is paying in todays contributions so if we never had children who may i ask would be paying jds pension when he retires !!

And as for having rich husbands is he having a laugh working class people is what most of us are .