Proposed State pension changes would ‘hit women hardest’

Increase in earnings threshold ‘regressive’ and would affect low-paid workers, says NCWI

Low-paid women and part-time workers would be hardest hit by any proposed increase in the earnings threshold for qualification for the State pension, the National Women's Council of Ireland has said.

Officials from the Department of Social Protection have suggested part-time workers would have to earn a minimum of €70 per week to be entitled to the full contributory State pension, instead of the current €38 per week.

The proposal features as part of a number of options outlined in the tax strategy papers by the Department of Social Protection to the Department of Finance.

It is understood Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar is not actively pursuing the measure but is giving it consideration alongside others.


The proposal suggests increasing the entry threshold to €70 or raising it over a number of years for example to €50 per week, to €70 the following year and so on.

The council’s director Orla O’Connor said the organisation had “serious concerns” about any proposals to reduce pension entitlements for part-time workers, as this would have a disproportionate impact on women’s pension entitlements.

They were “regressive” and must be “resoundingly rejected”, she said.

“Despite Government commitments to close the gender pension gap it has actually widened in recent years – from 35 per cent to 37 per cent,” Ms O’Connor said.

“ Cuts to the reduced rate contributory pension during the recession also had a disproportionate impact on women.”

The council called on the Government to use the budget later this year to deliver measures to reduce the gender pay and pension gap, including the delivery of a homemaker’s credit or care credit.


Research published by the European Institute for Gender Equality last year said inequalities in access to economic resources in old age were “immense”.

The paper said women pensioners faced higher risks of poverty in old age compared with men despite the fact that prohibition of differential treatment entitles women and men to equal conditions in respect to old-age pensions.

“In 2012, the gender gap in pensions amounted to 38 per cent in the EU on average. Notwithstanding the fact that the difference between pensions varies from country to country – from 5 per cent in Estonia to 45 per cent in Germany – the tendency for men to receive higher pensions than women is observed in all member states.”

In Ireland, the average monthly pension for women is €1,171 and €1,859 for men, based on 2012 figures.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: “A range of tax strategy group papers were published last month by the Department of Finance.

“These papers include a paper prepared by the Department of Social Protection on possible PRSI options for consideration in the context of the forthcoming budget. Among the options outlined in the paper is the question of the appropriate weekly earnings threshold at which a payment of PRSI has to be made.

“The current threshold is €38 per week and is not an hourly threshold. It is not possible to indicate the likelihood of any particular option being adopted.”