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Ministers must fix ‘whopping’ pensions gap for women, says TUC

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Unions have called on the government to take urgent action to fix a “whopping pensions gap”, as research showed women working in many industries have half the retirement savings of men.

The TUC said Thursday was “gender pensions gap day”, when female pensioners in Great Britain start getting paid after effectively going four and a half months without retirement income.

It called on the government to take urgent action as it revealed the average pension gap had hit 38%, more than twice the level of the gender pay gap (currently 15.4%).

In two-thirds of industries, women have workplace pensions worth less than half as much as men’s, according to the union organisation.

In manufacturing, wholesale, retail and other service jobs, women aged 45-64 have less than one-fifth of the pensions of their male colleagues, it said.

In administration and support services the average woman in the same age group has almost no pension at all and has a retirement fund 100 times smaller than the average man in the same industry.

One of the reasons for the imbalance is that many women take time out of work or work part-time to look after children, making it harder to grow their pension pot. Women are also often paid less than men, meaning they build up less in contributions.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Women face a whopping pension gap. And at current rates of progress, it could take more than 50 years to close.

“Too many women are paying the price in retirement for taking time out of work or cutting back their hours when their children were small.”

She added: “Ministers must act now, or we will consign more generations of women to poverty in retirement.”

The TUC said ministers should tackle the problem by changing the auto-enrolment system and making childcare more affordable.

The government said more women were saving into workplace pensions since auto-enrolment was introduced a decade ago.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Automatic enrolment has helped millions more women save into a pension, with participation among eligible women in the private sector rising from 40% in 2012 to 86% in 2020 – equal to that of men.

“Our plans to remove the lower earnings limit for contributions and to reduce the eligible age of being automatically enrolled to 18 in the mid-2020s will enable even more women to save more and start saving earlier.”

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