Irish women retire with 22% smaller pensions than men – study

Irish Life research finds big differences in base salaries driving significant gender gap

Women in Ireland tend to accumulate significantly smaller pensions pots than men despite making similar percentage contributions, new research shows.

The study by Irish Life into the value of pensions accumulated by women compared with men found that at retirement age women were likely to have pension packages worth €120,000, or 22 per cent less than their male counterparts.

While there are no real differences between the retirement planning of either gender, differences in salary and the duration of time spent in work throughout a career were the principal reasons for the gap.

“The lack of pension parity means that a whole generation of women are set to enter retirement on a much poorer footing than their male counterparts,” the study said.


Although the gender pay gap – currently at 14 per cent in Ireland – garners considerable attention, less thought is given to the emerging gender pension gap, which sees women in Ireland potentially looking at pensions of around 22 per cent less than men, the report stated.

It found that although men and women were making similar percentage contributions to their pensions – about 11 per cent of salary, including both employee and employer contributions – it translated to a much smaller monetary contribution for women than men.

Base salaries

This is driven by the difference in base salaries between the genders, which reaches its peak when men and women are in their early 50s.

The other major contributing factor is time spent in the workforce. European studies show that men spend seven years more in paid employment than women, and Irish Life data shows that women are three times more likely to reduce their hours, which might suggest that more women are taking breaks or going part time to have/raise a family or to take on the role of carer. As pensions are largely tied to salary, time in paid employment is a significant factor when it comes to the gap, the Irish Life study found.

"We analysed 80,000 pension plan members across 1,400 pension schemes in March," said Teresa Kelly Oroz, head of public policy and governance at Irish Life.

“What our research highlights is that despite joining pension plans at roughly the same age as men, women are retiring considerably worse off than men,” she said.

“While there is much focus on the immediate damage of the gender pay gap, we are ignoring the fact that a generation of women are set to enter retirement on a much poorer footing than their male counterparts.”

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times