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The future of pensions in Europe: EWL stresses that the gender pension gap of 39% has to be addressed as women have been taken for granted

[Brussels, 28 March 2014] The European Commission conference on the Future of Pensions in Europe – Taking stock and looking ahead two years after the White Paper gathered up to 300 participants for a one-day conference on 25 March in Brussels. The EWL took part in the panel on What pensions for future generations of Europeans? , at which it stressed the absolute necessity to address the gender dimension in future pension systems and to strengthen the first pillar statutory state pensions. Current tendencies to increase retirement ages, strengthen the link between contributions and benefits and increasing the role of second and third pillar pension schemes are all problematic from a gender equality perspective

One of the achievements of the European Commission’s White Paper on Pensions (2012) was to make the gender dimension visible. This was followed by a study on the Gender Gap in Pensions in the EU which highlights the deploring reality of older women’s dependency on a partner and/or the State to secure an income to live a dignified life as they age. It also showed that in some countries, women have no pension at all. Women have been taken for granted as the gender pension gap mirrors the accumulation of gender inequalities throughout women’s lives. Lower life-long earnings, time spent out of the labour-market for caring responsibilities, longer lives, but lower quality-of-life-years, divorce and widowhood all lead to higher levels of poverty among older women.

Guaranteeing pensions to future generations will require a multi-layered approach which consists in closing the gender pay gap, raising wages in sectors where women work, ensuring that men take their share of care and finding new sources of income (such as tax on financial transactions) to boost social security solidarity mechanisms. The EWL calls on the European Commission to take the lead in ensuring that the on-going pension reforms will not aggravate the gendered and unequal outcomes of the current pension systems which result in the gender pension gap (which is more than double the gender pay gap) and high poverty rates of elderly women.

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