With the recent speculation about the raising of the pension age, Guildford Labour Party members were fortunate to listen to Professor Sara Arber of Surrey University's Dept. of Sociology on the subject of gender inequality in income in later life-a subject which affects women-and men-of all ages, but currently having a huge negative impact on women in the 50-60 age group.
For women currently in their 50's and early 60's, feminism in the workplace largely passed them by: childcare, low pay (sometimes unequal pay), and the glass ceiling mean they face a period of poverty post 60, as they face living off savings which should have supplemented their pension, rather than replace it.
That these changes were put in place fairly recently-and keep changing- it means many women who thought they had planned for their retirement now face an uncertain future. Pension age rising to 65 and 66 means many older people living solely on savings. With the current high cost of childcare and elderly care, many women in this age group find themselves giving up work to provide care for elderly relatives and/or childcare for their grandchildren, to enable their parents to work to meet the cost of living in the 21st Century. This has a negative impact on women's pensions, as they stop work early and often have breaks in service and pension contributions.
While women live, on average, 4 years longer than men, this means more women can expect to be widowed, with concomitant rises in disability and a need for care. Changing family structures mean there is a lack of family provided care, leaving women relying on expensive external care.
There is also the question of health to consider. If someone is healthy then they could continue working, but with age often comes increased ill health and infirmity, with many unable to continue working.
Occupation is also a factor- manual workers may find it impossible to work post 65, and employers are reluctant to employ older people, and where they do, these are often in low paid jobs.
In summation, pension reform matters to all of us, but is potentially much more damaging for women.
This was an extremely interesting, thought provoking and no doubt depressing for some- talk by Dr Arber, and Guildford Labour Party would like to thank her very much.