State pension age rise protest in London

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Three groups were represented at a protest about the way the rises in state pension age have been introduced. Find out what they’re protesting about and what needs to change.

Why are state pension age rises unfair?

Next month the state pension age for women will be 65 – the same as it is for men. The state pension age for women started rising in April 2010. But, as we’ve found out in the last few years, successive governments didn’t write to women to tell them.

The coalition government made things worse by speeding up the rise in state pension age to 66. It will reach 66 by October 2020.

Various groups have been protesting about the way these state pension age rises were introduced and publicised – or not. Yesterday three groups: Backto60, WASPI and We paid in, you pay out, were represented at a joint rally at Hyde Park in London and then at Parliament Square.

Equality for women?

I talked to dozens of women who are – rightly – angry about the way various governments have treated them. And I’m not surprised. Like many women, I’m in favour of equality. But equality doesn’t mean making everyone do the same thing. It should be about trying to equalise the outcome. It’s especially important around something like retirement, where it’s the opportunities you had and the choices you made in your working life that affect what you have to retire on. Once you’re getting close to retirement, it’s too late to change that.

Gender pay gap

Women starting out their working lives today have far more opportunities than women starting their working lives in the 1970s. Even so, the gender pay gap figures have shown us that women still tend to be in lower paid jobs (and they’re usually lower paid because women do them, not because they’re inherently of ‘lower value’). Officially the gender pay gap is around 9%, but that headline figure doesn’t show the full picture. And, in the past, the gender pay gap was much higher.

Caring for children and family

Women who’ve stayed at home to look after their children have lost out in terms of their own careers and their workplace or private pension. If they’ve not been earning, they haven’t been paying into their own pension. And neither has their employer. On top of that, they’ve often lost out with their state pension. This is especially so before the 2000s when the rules on National Insurance credits changed. And women are far more likely than men to depend on their state pension in retirement.

Retirement plans ruined

I know from emails I receive, from Facebook comments and from women I’ve spoken to at various events, that the decisions to raise the state pension age to 65 then 66 have devastated the retirement plans of millions of women. At yesterday’s event, once again I heard from women who told me that they found out that their state pension age wasn’t 60, but was in fact, 64, 65 or 66, when they were aged 58 or 59. Far too late to do anything about it.

Increased life expectancy

The government says that women and men are living longer and that the state pension age has to reflect it. It’s true that life expectancy has been improving (sometimes quite dramatically) until 2010/11. What was also true was that the gap between those who live the longest and those who don’t has been widening. Since 2011, improvements in life expectancy have slowed. And in September, life expectancy didn’t increase for the first time on record. In some parts of the UK (Scotland and Wales) it actually fell.

Raids on the National Insurance fund

Two journalists, David Hencke and Paul Lewis, have unearthed some research carried out by others and done some number crunching of their own on the amount of money that should be in the National Insurance (NI) fund. When the NI fund was set up, the Treasury used to supplement the money in the fund from our own and employer’s NI contributions. This supplement was set at 18% of the money it received from NI contributions. In 1981 this was cut from 18% to 5%, then in 1989 it was abolished.

David Hencke estimated that this abolition and some other National Insurance smoke and mirrors meant that the NI fund had £271 billion less in it than it should have done. Moneybox presenter Paul Lewis reckons the figure is closer to £400 billion.

What happens next?

Backto60 has been given permission for an oral hearing as part of its application for a judicial review of the rise in state pension age at the High Court. It wants the government to reverse the decision to increase the state pension age. The date of the High Court hearing will be publicised soon.

Correction: I originally said that Backto60 had been given permission for judicial review. That appears to be wrong and I’m sorry for making a mistake. I’m trying to find out exactly what they have been given permission for and will update the article as soon as I know.

Useful links:

Backto60

We paid in, you pay out

Related articles: 

History of the state pension; 10 things you need to know about how it affects women

The biggest gender pay gap; what financial companies pay women and men

How to avoid retiring on £23 a day

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