Women look for pension changes

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The Independent Online
THE Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equal rights for women, plans to promote changes to the Pensions Bill going through Parliament by sponsoring amendments in the House of Lords.

It would like to see the abolition of the married women's pension and payments for married women, and steps to ensure that women build up a pension in their own right.

The current Home Responsibility Protection, which reduces the years needed to qualify for a full pension to take account of years taken out of work to look after children or elderly relations, should be replaced says the society, so that women are kept within the contributions system and given credits for caring years on the same basis as the unemployed or disabled.

"It could actually increase women's contributions, since they would remain part of the system in these years and may be more likely to make voluntary contributions,'' said Shelagh Diplock, director of the Fawcett Society.

The society would also like the Bill to abandon the Government's proposal to increase the number of years' contributions needed by women to qualify for a full state pension from 39 to 44 years in line with the hurdle for men.

The Fawcett proposal would equalise the qualifying years at 39 for all, which would recognise that men's working lives are becoming more like women's, with years possibly away from work.

At the moment, 94 per cent of men manage to work for 44 years to gain their entitlement to a full state pension, while only 16 per cent of women manage to work the necessary 39 years. This is expected to rise to between a half and two-thirds by the year 2020.

Lorraine Fletcher, head of pensions and benefits at the Equal Opportunities Commission, said there was no magic formula that would give women a decent standard of living in their old age. However, she added that measures such as aligning the number of qualifying years for men and women would give a considerable boost to women.

She was commenting on a report commissioned from the social policy research unit at York University published this week, which concluded that the current reforms would make it harder for women to gain financial security in retirement.

This said that the £5bn a year saved by the Government through raising the State retirement age for women from 60 to 65 should be used to help women achieve an adequate income in retirement.

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