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The State Pension and gender equality

Naomi Feely | Senior Policy Officer | Age Action
Written by: Naomi Feely
Senior Policy Officer


"I was so shocked, angry and annoyed when I first heard the amount I was to be awarded. It brought back the anger I felt in 1972 when I had to leave my job. I believe I am being penalised for caring for my children."

This quote from Liz* captures the anger and frustration experienced by many older women who have been in contact with Age Action when they discover the weekly rate of the Contributory State Pension they will receive when they retire.

Last week we published new research on changes introduced to the eligibility criteria for Contributory State Pension by the previous government which have had a disproportionate impact on older women.

In 2012, the number of payment bands for the State Pension Contributory increased from four to six. This means it has become increasingly difficult to qualify for a higher weekly payment rate.

For example, in 2011 if you had 20 yearly averaged contributions you would qualify for a weekly payment of €228.70. In 2012 you would have received €30.10 less. 

Over 35,000 new pensioners since 2012 are receiving reduced pensions due to a change introduced by the previous government. 

The changes have had a disproportionate impact of female pensioners. For some recipients, the change has meant a yearly loss of over €1,500 or €23,000 across their retirement years.

Extremely angry

The research sets out how this change, combined with a lifetime of other systemic inequalities, made getting a decent income in old age increasingly difficult for many women.

Combined with the averaging rule, the reality of women taking time out of the workforce to care for their children and that the current generation of women pensioners do not benefit from the Homemakers Scheme women face enormous barriers in trying to qualify for the top rate of the State Pension.

Women who have contacted Age Action are extremely angry when they discover they do not qualify for the top rate of the State Pension, a payment that they have contributed to throughout their working lives.

Our human rights record

Age Action is calling on the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar TD, to reverse the pension cut introduced in 2012 and backdate it to restore the incomes of tens of thousands of Irish pensioners.

We are also calling for the implementation of gender and equality proofing of budgets in order to ensure that future budgets do not discriminate against women.

Ireland’s record under the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is being examined in Geneva today. Submissions from the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission highlighted the negative impact of these changes on women. 

We look forward to hearing the State’s response on this and many other issues of inequality affecting women throughout their lives.

*Name changed.



How about setting up a campaign of protest at every local post office and every TD,s Clinic every Friday until the Fempi changes of 2012 are reversed.. Kindest regards Martin Post Code V95 W7K5
ps i have written to the Dept. of Social protection and the 3 local TD,s in Clare . my impression from all of them is they are in fear of a united reaction as the impact of the cuts begin to show how much recent pensioners are being effected by having expected to receive a fair retirement reward only to realise one has been short changed by up to €1700.00 per year.

I've been shortchanged by €1248 a year under this system. Had I worked while studying my average ppsn contribution would have been stretched even thinner and my pension would be smaller. On top of this I was obliged to claim job seekers benefit for my first year of retirement. Joan Burton, Minister at the time, replied with misleading information that my (small) Tusla pension would be obliged to make up the difference - not the case.
Pam T34 F303

I am 66 later this year and am so annoyed with the change in the PRSI contributions since 2012. Under the pre 2012 SW rules I was entitled to claim €228.70 per week State Pension but since the new rules came in I will now be at a loss of €19.00 per week = €988 per annum (2016 Rates)

This is a disgrace. I raised 3 children and worked as much as I could and now find that my pension is reduced.

I am receiving Cont. pension since April 2016.I am very annoyed & feel hard done by that the income I expected to get did not materialise.Pre 2012,I would have received the full amount,I am getting €198.60 now.I worked most of my life since 1967,job-shared for a short period & raised 4 children.I also missed out on the Homemakers scheme which commenced in 1994.
Doubling the number of contributions required in 2012 by Minister Joan Burton mitigated against my age-group very unfairly & will leave us out of pocket for the rest of our lives.
It MUST be reversed.

With the changes in 2012 I am getting a contributory pension of €91.40 per week. I was 65 in June 2012 and the law was changed in April that year, thus losting out by 2 months. I stayed at home to rear my children and look after elderly relatives and never drew Social Welfare.

the pension and extremely high taxes are a curse on irish pensioners,(i nearly wrote prisoners) not to forget the awful, means testing

It is a very sad day when our political system and the people we have entrusted to lead our nation have turned on their own people. Yet again women and some men are discriminated against for trying to do what they feel is best for their famines. I am tired of listening to small talk about how hard women or home makers work . They work 24/7 to look after their families to give their children a better start. We don't need sympathy or a pat on the back we need to be assured that we can look to our retirement with some dignity and respect. Now the price we pay is poverty in retirement. This decision must be reversed.

I've just discovered that I don't qualify for full contributory pension even though I am working full time since 1994 after taking time out to rear my family. I started work at 17 which puts my working life at 49 years, and this brings my average down to 25 , even though I took 15 years out to rear my children at no cost to the government. Does this make sense ? Joan Burton you have a lot to answer for.

I have yet to retire but I am not working due to disability, but I feel that this pension problem is a disgrace, more must be done. Most women do not know about this it needs to be highlighted in the media.

The Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty in the Irish Independent recently expressed her concern for the elderly and pensions. I have written to her outlining my position on the Contributory Pension and the changes made in 2012. I encourage other people to do the same or else lobby their TDs. It is important to highlight the situation with an election looming.

Fair play to you Teresa, we need more people like you contacting their TDs about this!

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