Mind the gender gap: women facing £47,000 pension shortfall

Kyle Caldwell
22 February 2017

Women live longer than men, but when it comes to employer pension contributions they are losing out due to the gender pay gap.

New research from Zurich, which looked at more than 250,000 pension plans held by the firm between 2013 and 2016, shows that on average, men under the age of 35 received £217 more in employer pension contributions than females of the same age each year.

For those aged 34 to 44 the gap grew to £594, and it almost doubled to £1,287 for the 45 to 54 age bracket. The gap increased further for those aged 55 to 64, to £1,680.

Number-crunching by Zurich calculated that women who work 42 years face a £47,000 pension fund shortfall when they come to retire.


Serious problem

The findings lift the lid on three factors contributing to the shortfall in women's pension pots: the gender pay gap, which leads to a lower value of employer contribution as a percentage of salary; the fact that men typically work in sectors with more established or more generous pension schemes; and the greater likelihood that women will take career breaks to raise a family.

Rose St Louis of Zurich Insurance made the point that the 'triple effect' of smaller salaries, lower contribution rates and career breaks for women needs to be addressed.

"The impact of the gender pay gap on women's pension pots is no secret, but this difference in the contributions they receive from their employer presents a serious - and growing - problem," St Louis says.

Last year a study conducted by the Pensions Policy Institute on behalf of the Trades Union Congress painted a similar picture, finding women have around half the pension savings of men.

The average woman in a defined contribution scheme has just £7,500 saved for retirement, compared to £14,500 for men.

For those in defined benefit (final salary) schemes, the typical woman has £32,000 in contrast to men who have £62,900.

In addition, research from Prudential found self-employment among women in the UK has increased by 22% over the past four years.

This in itself could widen the existing retirement income gender gap, because women who work for themselves are less likely to save for a pension.

Commenting on Zurich's gender pay research, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said automatic enrolment has improved the pension saving landscape for women, with the percentage of women employed in the private sector with a workplace pension nearly doubling since 2012.

But the spokesman admits that "there is still more to do and we are reviewing the policy to see how it can be improved".

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

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