18/11/2016

Party's Call For Govt Action On Gender Pension Gap

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have both called for government action on the gender pension gap.

FF have tabled an amendment to the Social Welfare Bill which would see the eligibility criteria for the State pension reviewed to ensure that women who took time out of work to look after children or to care for a loved one, are not penalised.

Under the current system, workers must make a minimum of 520 paid contributions before they qualify for the State pension. However, FF said that this is not always possible for women who have stepped out of the workplace to care for children.

Announcing the amendment, TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, said: "The last government introduced a range of punitive changes which discriminated against women. It raised the number of paid contributions needed to qualify for a State pension increased from 260 to 520, making it more difficult for women who took career breaks, to reach this target.

"This is a deeply unfair situation and fails to recognise the important contribution that these women have made to the workplace, but also to their families and to society. My Party Spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O'Dea has submitted a number of amendments to the Social Welfare Bill to address this discrimination.

"Measures which were brought in under Fine Gael and Labour have plunged many one parent families into poverty and they must be reversed. The evidence is clear on this matter – social exclusion is increasing in lone parent households and more and more families are falling below the breadline. This needs to be urgently addressed.

"The amendments that Fianna Fáil has tabled are aimed at addressing these imbalances and improving the effectiveness of the social welfare system to ensure that it's fit for purpose and serving those who need it the most."

Also addressing the issue, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan said that there is "much work that needs to be done to address the gender pension gap".

MEP Boylan said: "The gender pay gap and the gender pension gap are inextricably linked, and while attention has rightly been paid to the pay gap this week in light of the revelations from Morgan McKinley, light also needs to be shone on the gender pension gap.

"The pension gap itself is an indicator of inequalities already existing in the labour market and households, as well as variations in pension systems design, and highlights the need for a holistic approach in addressing these inequalities.

"It is also an indicator of the inequality of government policy. This is patently true from an analysis of the rise in the gender pension gap since the beginning of the economic crisis.

"We know the pension gap results from the cumulative impact over the life-courses of women due to a variety of factors, including the pay gap and breaks from work for caring responsibilities.

"But we also need to acknowledge when we talk about tackling the gender pension gap that poor government planning and austerity policies are exacerbating rather than reducing this inequality.

"I'm happy to see this issue on the agenda of the European institutions, and I look forward to the report of the European Parliament Employment and Social Affairs Committee on the issue as it will hopefully be a roadmap for all Member States on how to address the gender pension gap."

(MH)

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