TENS OF thousands of women who were forced to give up their Civil Service jobs when they got married prior to 1973 should have their pensions restored, a campaign group for older people has said.
Older and Bolder, an alliance of eight different NGOs in the ageing sector, said yesterday it completely rejected the Government’s failure to deal with the “marriage bar” in its recently published National Pensions Framework.
It also criticised Government plans to raise the pension qualifying age to 66 by 2014 and create a supplementary pension coverage system managed by the private sector in a new report, A Secure Pension System for All?
Under the “marriage bar”, which was abolished in 1973, women working in the public and Civil Service had to resign their job as soon as they married. Many of these women lost their cover under the social welfare system when they left work, and either did not qualify for a State pension when they retired, or only qualified for a smaller State pension.
The National Pensions Framework, which was published in March, estimates 47,000 people are affected by the marriage bar and gaps in social insurance coverage for the self employed. But it proposed that “pension reform will focus only on future arrangements” and not “legacy issues”.
Margaret O’Leary, a 64-year-old woman from Wexford who was forced to give up her job at An Post when she got married in 1970, said the State’s failure to address the issue of the marriage bar was an “appalling injustice”.
“Women who were forced to leave work back then found themselves managing on one person’s wage and they often had to look after older relatives and there was no carers allowance then,” she said at the launch of the report.
“Now when it is time to apply for a pension all they can get is a dependant or non-contributory pension,” said Ms O’Leary.
The report by Older and Bolder recommends a special once-off arrangement to meet the needs of women denied access to a pension because of the marriage bar.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland is investigating the possibility of taking a legal challenge to force the State to pay compensation to women affected by the marriage bar. It also called on the Government yesterday to change the law to give women the proper pension they should be entitled to.
The report also recommends extending the lead-in time for the introduction of changes to the pension qualifying age. The National Pensions Framework recommends increasing the qualifying age to 66 in 2014, up from 65.
“Unfortunately, the proposals set out in the National Pensions Framework militate against choice for older people. The recommendation of a mandatory increase in the qualifying age for the State Pension by 2014 – a very short lead-in time and propose no action on mandatory retirement ages which push people out of the workplace at age 65, regardless of their preferences and capabilities,” said Patricia Conboy, project director of Older and Bolder.
David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions , criticised the proposal to create a supplementary pension coverage system managed by the private sector. He described this as “entrusting people’s future financial security to the whims of the market”.
He said the proposal would force people to hand a portion of their earnings to the same speculators who have already failed so spectacularly given the huge scale of losses in Irish pension funds.