In the latest edition of Construction Magazine, celebrating International Women’s Day, CPAS looks at some of the challenges faced by women when it comes to pensions.

This month, the CIF hosted an in-person event celebrating International Women’s Day. As one of the speakers commented, it is not just about one single day in the calendar – it is about working to secure a better future for all. As a pension administration company, CPAS is focused on the future – specifically, the future of our Members. We help them save for life after work, enabling them to live comfortably with a stable financial footing throughout their retirement.

The current inflationary pressures will mean many people will see extra demands on their income. This coincides with also having to prepare financially for their long-term future. This future financial stability relies on retirement savings in order for it to be comfortable and secure. We understand the financial pressures people face and work with Members to help them understand the impact they can have on their future by making even the most modest of contributions to their pension savings. Each year for example, we remind our Members about the invaluable tax relief that is available by making Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs). This small step can make a big impact in the future. In fact, AVCs are also referred to as “rocket fuel”. AVCs allow Members to increase individual pension funds by maximising the tax relief they are entitled to on contributions. The limits on pension tax relief are broken down in specific bands based on age. So, for example, someone aged 33, can avail of tax relief on anything up to 20 per cent of their income that is contributed to their pension fund.

Not just an Irish issue

While everyone should be considering making the most of their pension savings by contributing what they can afford, global trends do show gender inequality still exists when looking at pension provision. According to research carried out before the pandemic, women in Ireland experience an income gap of 37% in retirement compared with their male counterparts.

There are many reasons for these inequities and while companies are not expected to resolve these challenges, there are things companies can do to help staff – mainly around acknowledging the challenges that exist and educating staff about the benefits of pension savings. Some of the impacts of gender inequality can be reduced by encouraging women to join the company pension scheme early and making pension contributions (no matter how small), consistently. However, this can only make a small dent against a greater societal challenges that exist. Pension gaps are created in a number of circumstances, including:

  • Service Gaps: There are numerous reasons why women take career leave. Statistics show that more often than not, caring in the home generally falls to women. This was amplified during the pandemic. Whether that is maternity leave, child rearing and caring for sick family members– women often take time out of the workplace and as a result, their pension savings suffer. These service gaps can also negatively impact their pension entitlements which is something that can be overlooked.
  • Pension Coverage: Two thirds of women in Ireland do not have private pension cover. Employers could help address this by informing staff of the benefits, helping staff understand the tax benefits of saving for their retirement and ensuring staff are maximising the generous pension schemes that employers have in place.

Why women should care more than men?

Pension savings should concern both genders equally. However, (according to HSE figures 2020), women live on average four years longer than men in Ireland (84.1 years for women versus 80.5 years for men). This means that their pension savings must last longer than those of their male counterparts. Furthermore, the number of people aged 65 years and over in Ireland has increased by 35.2% since 2009. This is more than double the EU average of 16% in the same period. This could negatively impact the ability of the State to support pension age adults with the same level of pension cover annually.

Planning for the future

As in life, there are many variables and changes. Planning for retirement involves forming expectations about income and expenses over the rest of your life, based on present assumptions. Our pension consultants help you cut through the complicated jargon and plan for your future. For more information, please get in touch with our team of consultants who can provide more information (info@cpas.ie).