Correcting gender inequality in pensions. The experience of five European countries

Population and Societies

453, February 2009

Gender inequality in pensions was scarcely an issue in the past, since most women shared their husbands’ income during retirement and qualified for survivors’ pensions as widows. The increase in divorce and non-marital unions challenges the effectiveness of that system. A growing number of women (separated, divorced or never married) will live alone after retirement and their incomes will depend more closely on their own earned pension entitlements. Carole Bonnet and Marco Geraci compare the avenues explored by five European countries to ensure that women obtain adequate pension rights.
Owing to their lower workforce participation, women earn smaller pensions than men. Changes in conjugal behaviour and other factors mean that a growing number of women who are not widows will live alone during retirement. Their incomes will therefore depend more closely on their own accrued pension rights. In order to correct the gender gap in pensions, five European countries - Germany, Italy, the UK, Sweden and France - seem to be restricting the conditions for survivors’ pensions while developing mechnisms to boost women’s own rights, such as pension splitting and, more importantly, caring credits, to compensate for the impact of children on women’s careers.

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