The Liberal Democrats have taken intense criticism, as many feel they have gone back on their word to keep age increases for the state pension on the old timetable.
Though women have already accepted the burden by the previous government, sentencing them to another 4 years until state retirement, the coalition government has decided to speed up the age increase. Women will now face retiring at 66, the same age as men, by 2020.
The age increase affected all those who were on their way to retirement, but is disproportionately affecting women who were born between 1953 and 1954, who have less than 7 years’ notice that they will need to work longer
Gender discrepancies in pensions
Women in their mid to late fifties are furious about the age changes, which would have made some of them face another 2 years of working that they were not prepared for. Though the changes are made in order to keep the state pension system coping with rising life expectancy, it seems that women who may not have had the opportunity to save in private savings are being left in the cold.
In order to ease the “transition” after a vast outcry from women and activist groups, the government has capped the amount of extra working time for anyone affected by the age changes to 18 months.
However, the move does not consider the plight of women who had already accepted that they would need to work 4 years longer under the previous government. Finally seven years away from that goal, hundreds of thousands of women were slapped with a further 18 months.
Critics say that women are particularly hard-hit by the age increase because a greater proportion have spend extensive time out of the working world to raise families, or have taken on part-time work. The changes also hit women harder because they are simply paid less on average than their male counterparts, and therefore are harder-pressed to accumulate significant private savings.
Working past the limits of their bodies
This means that for many more women than men, qualifying for the state pension is the difference between enjoying retirement and continuing working past the limits of their bodies.
Those against the changes argue that women are also more likely to be caring for another person, often an elderly parent. They bring up the salient question of how women in these difficult circumstances will be able to make ends meet if they are unable to keep working until the government’s mandated age.
Lower-earners and health problems
In addition, the debate in favour of raising the pension age because people are living longer has left out the crucial gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. While the argument may work for higher-paid earners that are likely to enjoy their health long into retirement, the age increases are essentially robbing lower-paid earners of 18 months despite their shorter average lifespan.
Those who have worked low to middle paying jobs their entire life typically have incomes that depend more on their weekly state pension allowance.
Employees who earn low pay have also been making a proportionately greater sacrifice from their salaries by paying into the state pension system. This is because smaller salaries mean a larger percent of income goes to basic necessities such as food, fuel, and bills. It is no wonder that the changes are being called “heartless” and “unfair” by critics, as the age increase hit hardest those who need the benefits the most.
In addition, the age increase has negatively affected workers with common health problems that prevent them from working at full capacity, such as those with rheumatoid arthritis or back injuries. Recent austerity measures, which made strict changes to who qualifies for benefits, have already made it much harder to for those with debilitating health problems to get by.
Many individuals with health problems have seen drastic cuts to their benefits or have been ruled as completely ineligible after recent reforms aimed at saving the government money. The same is true for lower-income families, who already face smaller Child Benefit payments or have had the benefits taken away, and who must now forego 18 months of state pension income as well.
All of these affected groups deservedly feel betrayed by their government, as they have to wait years longer to receive a state pension that they need to help them survive.
To understand your own personal pension entitlement, go to http://www.pensioncalculator.org/ the UK’s leading online pension resource, with information on pensions, annuities, retirement and ways to save for your future. We also have experts who are willing to answer any questions that you may have.
Photo credit: Stuart Miles