#Pensionawareness DAY was emblazoned across the back of a huge double decker bus situated just outside my office last week. The marketing campaign of a pension provider, travelling the country to spread the message the government want us all to appreciate.When it comes to retirement plans, frankly you are on your own! It's all been making me wish I'd started my pension plan in my 16 year old Saturday shop job instead of saving for those must have boots...ah the benefit of hindsight!
So whilst those clever marketing people made me stop & think about pensions, rather than thinking of my own retirement plans (steady, I'm still in my 30s so perhaps I'll be able to retire at 90) my mind turned to the women who the very same week were trying to raise awareness of their fight against pension inequality. Sadly for women born in the 1950s they are all too Aware, aware of the state pension, for them, being woefully inadequate. The Women Against State Pension Inequality 'WASPI' on Friday rolled out a National Day of Local Action. Their fight is a simple one. It's an issue which effects hundreds of thousands of women up & down the country born after 5th April 1951. These women were hit hard with the sweeping government change to equalise the state retirement age for women and men and to implement increases in the state pension age from 65, to 66, then 67/68, depending on when you were born.
Whilst the group agree in principal with the change to equalisation, a large percentage of women born in 50s Britain find themselves in financial hardship as a result of those changes. The change ought to have taken effect gradually for those women likely to be most effected & introduced on a gradual basis with measures in place to account for the women, who at the time were on the cusp of retirement at 60 who are the most effected by the legislation. Recommendations for advance warnings and help to minimise the effect were recommended by groups supporting those of pension age. The Tory government didn't listen.
The reality is that many had very little or no notice of the change (in some instances only the year before their original proposed retirement date). Even 2 or 3 years notice in cases where the retirement age is some 6 years later than originally planned for leaves many with limited options. The problem is compounded by a significant number of these individuals being employed in part-time work throughout their life & their ability to join and contribute to company pension schemes was pretty much non-existent before the 1990s. The state pension they thought would provide an income will now be paid in five years time. With limited income from private pensions due to historic inequality in pay, what would you or could you do?
The group also report that some women who have been made aware of the changes often found out by surprise or after they had already taken steps to agree acceptance of early retirement or redundancy on the mistaken belief their pension income would kick in shortly after.
Whilst there is legislation in place to prevent age discrimination in employment, these women are also faced with difficulties in sourcing well paid, secure employment. Without alternative income sources, the group report many working on zero hours contracts, in temporary positions or on low income. Some who have saved extra to put towards a happy retirement are eating into the savings they'd hoped would provide a little extra comfort after many years of employment.
Advances towards narrowing the gender pay gap nationwide are still ongoing. Positive steps have been made in recent years but the plight of women born in the 1950s faced with hardship and clearly discriminatory government policies relating to their pension are a reminder for all not to be complacent. A stark reminder of the history of inequality effecting scores of women today. True equality in pay can only mean equality in pension provision also. The media attention on the campaign will hopefully help to drive appropriate measures to redress this inequality. Lend your support, as we do to the WASPI campaign. You can find details at https://www.waspi.co.uk/