Gender retirement savings gap widening

Marina Gerner
21 November 2016

The gap between the amount men and women are saving for retirement has widened. In 2014, 50% of women were saving adequately compared with 55% of men, this year it's 52% compared with 60%, according to the latest Scottish Widows Women & Retirement Report.

Shifting patterns in employment following the financial crisis are negatively affecting women's ability to save for retirement, the report finds. Close to 1.5 million women in the UK are now self-employed - a 22% increase in four years, and twice the rate of growth in numbers of self-employed men.

Further, 16% of women work part-time, and a significant proportion could miss out on retirement savings because automatic enrolment is only triggered when employees earn £10,000 a year or more.



Jackie Leiper, retirement expert at Scottish Widows, says: “More needs to be done to make certain that automatic enrolment does not marginalise female savers who may not qualify for the threshold.”

In addition to the move towards self-employment and part-time work for women, there is a gender pay gap of about 10% in the UK, based on median earnings for full-time employees, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Women are also much more likely to take time off work to rear children and care for their parents and parents-in-law and they therefore miss out on national insurance and pension contributions.

Considering these social and economic factors, and the failure of policy to structurally address those issues, it is no surprise that women struggle to save enough for retirement.

Jessica Parry is a PR account executive in London; she says: “As a girl in my mid-20s, I often compare my financial circumstances to my parents' generation. Both were living comfortably in London in their first properties at my age.

“However, due to student loans, high rent and bills, the cost of travel in London and London prices in general, I don't see myself on the property ladder for decades to come. It's something that worries me regularly.

“I put a small amount of money towards my pension each month but am unable to save any money to put towards something worthwhile. Given I have to limit what I can put into my pension each month, I won't retire until my late 60s or early 70s.”


Joanne Summers is a full-time agency contracts & quality officer for a Registered Social Housing Provider. She says she's not saving anywhere near enough for retirement, as it takes all of her and her husband's savings just to get by.

She is auto-enrolled but has only made the minimum contributions, and wasn't aware that contributions are set to increase. She's expecting to rely on her auto-enrolment pension in later life. She also expects to work into old age and free up equity from her house by downsizing.

But there is an acute shortage of housing for people to downsize into in the UK and freeing up equity from one's house through equity release should only ever be a lost resort because it's very costly.

This story was origianlly written for our sister magazine, Money Observer.

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