Ireland has a gender pension gap of 35 per cent

Download an infographic highlighting key findings from the study. 

Recent ESRI research funded by the Pensions Council presents new evidence on the gender pension gap in Ireland. Data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) for 2010 is used to provide the most comprehensive representation of the retired population. The study finds that the average pension income of retired women is 35 per cent lower than that of retired men.  

Pension gap: Key findings

  • The analysis finds that the average total weekly pension income in 2010 was €280 for women and €433 for men, indicating a gender pension gap of approximately 35 per cent.
  • The total gender pension gap is due to differences in incomes from private and occupational pensions. 55% of retired men receive a private or occupational pension, compared to only 28% of women. For men and women who receive a state pension, there is no difference observed in the amount received, i.e. there is no gender gap in state pensions.
  • For occupational and private pensions, the research establishes that lower relative years of work experience among women increases the gender pension gap. The study shows a significant difference in the number of years worked by men and women. 93 per cent of retired men had worked for more than 30 years, compared to 33 per cent of retired women. Three per cent of retired men had never worked, compared to 22 per cent of retired women.
  • Higher levels of female educational attainment reduce the gender pension gap.

The research also examined the experience of income poverty among the older population in Ireland using data from the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) for 2015 and 2016.

Income poverty in old age: Key findings

  • Overall, the older population has fared better than other age groups in terms of the experience of income poverty in Ireland in recent years.  8.6 per cent of people aged over 65 were living in income poverty in 2017, compared to 16.2 per cent of working-age people and 18.4 per cent of children.
  • The research investigated if the households of income-poor older people are below the poverty threshold because of the low incomes of others who live in the household. This was not the case however, as income-poor older people are most likely to live alone or as a couple.
  • There was no gender difference in income poverty. However, women are less likely to receive a contributory pension and among those who do, the average income received is much lower than the average income received by men. This is partly because their partners are likely to receive a qualified adult payment.  It is also because more women receive lower personal rates as a result of less time spent in employment.

The study also reviewed the international evidence on gender differences in key dimensions of financial decision-making (preferences, financial literacy and household decision-making roles), and surveyed the availability of data on these issues in Ireland.

Financial decision-making: Key findings

  • The evidence shows that women are more risk-averse and have poorer numeracy/financial literacy skills than men. For example, using data from TILDA, just 7.5 per cent of women, and 17.2 per cent of men aged 50+ were able to answer correctly three questions on financial literacy.

Adele Whelan, ESRI, commented, “A complex mix of factors shape the working lives of women and men, such as personal desires, household decision-making processes, social conditions and public policies. In order to reduce the pension gender gap, policymakers need to consider measures to raise female employments levels, reduce the differences in occupational and private pension coverage across genders, ensure increased continuity in employment and adequately protect against care-related interruptions.  Policies concerning the provision of increased and more affordable childcare and long-term care services can also play a role to increase female employment levels and ensure increased continuity in employment.”

Jim Murray, Chairman of the Pensions Council, welcomed the results of the study as an important contribution to the “detailed understanding of the Irish retirement system that we need to identify what policies are most likely to succeed”.