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The gender pensions gap: why are women going the equivalent of 5 months a year without a pension? 

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Today is gender pensions gap day – the point in the year when retired women would start getting their pension if it was paid out at the same rate as men.

This pensions gap was at 40.5 per cent last year, with women receiving £7,100 a year less than men. 

That’s more than twice the gender pay gap, and has the same effect as going without a pension for almost five months of the year. 

And things aren’t improving. This year’s gender pensions gap day comes later than last year’s as the gap has increased from 37.9 per. 

The stark differences in personal pension wealth built up by men and women in work today – mainly in workplace pensions – and the slow progress equalising state pension incomes means the gap isn’t going to close quickly. 

A TUC report, published today, examines the key causes of the gender pensions gap, and sets out policies that would reduce the disparity

The biggest factor is the different lifetime working patterns between men and women, with women much more likely to take time out of paid work, or to work part-time, to care for children or other relatives. 

This ‘motherhood penalty’ is responsible for women building up workplace pensions worth just over half that of men as they are likely to spend fewer years contributing to a pension, and to get lower annual contributions if they work part time. 

The gender pay gap also plays a part in reducing average pension contributions for women. This is exacerbated by rules that only require employers to automatically put workers into a workplace pension if they earn £10,000 or over. 

TUC analysis shows that female employees are more than twice as likely as male colleagues to fall below this threshold. 

Some progress has been made. Since auto-enrolment was introduced in 2012 the proportion of women in the private sector with a workplace pension has more than doubled, while the gap in state pension incomes has shrunk from 25 per cent to 5 per cent. 

And this year the government announced it was looking at developing an official measure of the gender pensions gap – something that would make the problem easier to address and that unions have long been calling for.  

But much more action is needed. 

The starting point must be to address the gender inequalities in our labour market, and to make sure that our pension system works for people of all income levels. 

Providing funded, high-quality childcare for all that’s free at the point of use, and fixing the staffing crises in childcare and social care would give more women the chance to work and save for retirement. 

And extending pensions auto-enrolment so that all workers are automatically put into their company pension would help more low-paid and part-time workers build up a decent pension pot. 

Measures like these will take time to have an impact, and are only the first steps.  

If the government is serious about tackling the gender pensions gap, then it must act now. 

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