Pensions gap condemns women to life of poverty

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Women who retire in the UK are four times less likely to qualify for a full state pension than men, a report is expected to show.

This week, the government report will highlight the discrepancy between the retirement incomes of women and men and detail the extent of poverty among elderly women in Britain.

The study, by the Department for Work and Pensions, is expected to show that 2.2 million women do not receive a basic state pension as a result of low wages or not having a job. For every £1 a man receives from a pension, a woman receives only 32p, government figures show.

Ministers are considering root-and-branch reform of the pension system to address inequalities between retired women and men. Women miss out on pensions because they often take time off work to care for children or other family, which reduces the contributions they can make.

Ministers are discussing ways to "plug the gap" to stop women who take time off work for caring being penalised. After pressure from groups such as Age Concern, they are considering "crediting women in" to cover missing contributions and ensure they have a consistent payments history.

Of the 3.3 million people who are receiving pension credit, 2.18 million are women. Men get on average £50-£100 a week more private pension income than women of the same age. And 1.3 million of the 1.9 million people lifted out of poverty by pension credit are women.

Harriet Harman, the constitutional affairs minister and former secretary of state for social security, said: "We should be recognising it where women are making a contribution doing unpaid work."

A review of pensions policy by the former head of the CBI Adair Turner will be published next month.