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Austerity widening Ireland’s gender pension gap - Lynn Boylan MEP

24 November, 2015 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Lynn Boylan has pointed out that austerity policies are exacerbating the gender pension gap, in stark opposition to the European Commission and Parliament’s stated intention to reduce this gap.

Speaking tonight from Strasbourg where she addressed the European Parliament during a debate on ‘preventive measures’ to tackle the gender pay gap, Ms Boylan said: “The gender pension gap in the Irish state has increased since the economic crisis began. 

“This is no accident but a result of deliberate policies. The result is that many women are denied economic independence, and the dignity that comes with it, in their retirement.

“We know the pension gap results from the cumulative impact over the life-courses of women of a variety of factors including the pay gap and breaks from work for caring responsibilities. 

“But we also need to acknowledge when we talk about ‘preventive measures’ in tackling the gender pension gap that austerity policies are exacerbatingrather than reducing this inequality.

“Policies implemented by successive Irish governments since 2008 have worsened the situation for women.

“Women struggle to build up sufficient contributions across both the private and public pension systems as a result of the pay gap, precarious and low-paid work, carrying out unpaid caring, and being excluded from the labour market for long periods over the course of their lives as a result of the prohibitive cost of childcare in this state.

“The government reduced pension entitlements for new employees in the public service in 2009, and specific sectors dominated by women - teaching and nursing - have been targeted by other measures reducing their salaries and pensions.

“Ireland already has the lowest level of social expenditure on old age pensioners among all EU member states, and this state also has one of the lowest overall social spending levels in the EU.

“The gap between the effective retirement age of women, at 63 and a half, and the official retirement age (66) is set to increase significantly over the coming years. While Fianna Fáil in government raised the retirement age, neither the former nor current government have put forward a single proposal that will address the rising gap between the effective and statutory pension ages.”

Ms Boylan continued: “The cost of childcare has the disgraceful effect of entirely excluding some women from participating in the productive economy and forcing others into precarious, low-paid jobs.

“Brutal cuts to the One Parent Family Payment will drive more women and children into long-term poverty.

"All of these cuts to women's income will of course increase the gender pension gap.

"I'm happy to see this issue on the agenda of the European institutions, and it should be on the Irish government's agenda too.

“There are many steps we can take to tackle the gender pension gap - but first we must acknowledge the disastrous impact of austerity policies on women, and immediately reverse them." ENDS 

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