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We must recognise that paid and unpaid work are equally valuable

Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2021

In its submission to the Pension Commission, the National Women’s Council (NWC) this week called for urgent action to address the deep inequalities in our pension system for women and deliver a universal State pension for all as a means to ensure income adequacy in older age and recognise that paid work and unpaid work are equally valuable.

Currently, women account for only a third of those in receipt of a full State Contributory Pension even though women outnumber men among the over 65’s.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC said,

“Women experience deep inequalities in our pension system which is too closely linked to labour market participation. Women are more likely to provide unpaid care and to be in low paid, part time jobs on precarious contracts, making it difficult to be eligible for the full State pension or to have an occupational pension.

Our pension system does not address the inequalities and discrimination experienced by older women who were expected by Irish society to shoulder the full burden of caring responsibilities but whose contribution is not fully recognised by our social welfare system for pensions or other purposes.

To ensure income adequacy for all in old age, the National Women’s Council calls for the delivery of a universal State pension for all, benchmarked to 40% average earnings, which will guarantee income adequacy in older age and which would recognise that paid work and unpaid work are equally valuable.”

Sandra McCullagh, Women’s Economic Equality Coordinator with NWC said,

“It is imperative that all of the recommendations of the Pension Commission are gender and equality proofed and that the Commission publishes a gender and equality impact statement.

To ensure sustainability in our pension system, we must end the regressive tax reliefs on private pensions and instead invest this expenditure into sustaining an adequate universal pension into the future. The State spends approximately €2.4 billion per annum in private pension tax relief. The bulk of the benefit goes to the top earners who are predominantly men and so it widens the gender pension gap. Despite extraordinary cost to the public exchequer such reliefs have failed to deliver the stated aim of improving pension coverage, yet remarkably little attention has been paid to the cost of continuing them. Debates about affordability now and into the future cannot take place without the examination of the tax expenditure directed to private pensions.”

Sandra McCullagh said,

“Though women comprise a majority of the older population and are more likely to live longer, there has traditionally been little attention to the needs of women in pensions reform in Ireland. The current process is a unique opportunity for the Pension Commission to develop a just and equal pension system that recognises the wider social contributions made by women through their caring labour and not just participation in the labour market.”

Read NWC’s Submission to the Pension Commission: https://www.nwci.ie/learn/publication/submission_to_commission_on_pensions


For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 858 9104.