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Women’s pensions penalised

How do we penalise women’s pensions? Let me count the number of ways:1: Designed for another era2: Ten-year rule3: Part-time work and low pay4: Home responsibility protection inadequate5: Tax relief6: Occupational pensions7: Pension credit8: Contracting out9: Annuities10: Reliance on husband’s pensionThe idea of a citizen’s pension, earned in their own right, by everyone who lives in this country for, say, 25 years, would recognise the valuable role played by women and give them their own rights and dignity.

The current system begrudgingly credits them, in such imperfect ways and forces most of them to rely on means’ testing.

About half of our pensioners are already entitled to pension credit and most of these are women, not men.

Alan Johnson has called our state pension system for women “a national disgrace” and he is right.

Sadly, Mr Blunkett seems to be veering towards tinkering and credits rather than proper reform.

We encourage women to do socially useful things, such as bringing up children while working part-time, caring for older relatives, taking lower-paid jobs which they can more easily fit in with family life but then they are penalised for it.

Our pension system was designed for another era. Society has moved on but the politicians making the policy decisions seem to be stuck in a previous age which no longer exists.

Women need their own pension rights. The state system should not penalise them and they should accrue their own pensions.

With the rise in divorce rates and women who are single in later life, society surely has a duty to recognise that women can no longer be expected to rely on a husband’s pension. It’s bad enough that women end up having to take lower-paid and part-time work which means that can’t accrue as much occupational pension as men, and also means that they can’t afford to save as much as men but they should not then find that their social security rights are reduced too.

Surely, women’s non-waged work is as valuable to society as the waged work, however, only the waged work – and only as long as she earns high enough wages – will count towards her pension later.

Ros AltmannIndependent pensions consultant,

London

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