"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.
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.