Pension top-ups failing seniors, women

The most recent governmental review of pension top-ups has left many retired people with far less than they had anticipated. Only 15% of around 11,500 cases reviewed within the last period will be receiving top-ups, leaving 10,000 people who applied for a top-up without any other option than to survive off of their same plan, despite rising prices.

This denial of pension top-ups extends beyond this small percentage of retirees. Tens of thousands of people were affected by this bad review, causing the public to go into a frenzy. Understandably so, given that everyone who has a pension is retired and between the ages of 60 and 70. Most of these people have already worked for over 40 years and have planned and saved so that they no longer have to work in the elderly stage of their lives.

Usually, people begin saving for pensions at the age of 25, paying small amounts to their retirement fund that are sometimes matched to a degree by either their current employer or the government. These plans also usually have higher interest rates, allowing the money that is deposited to grow quickly and steadily throughout your career.

When you retire, you are able to effectively budget these funds, and funds given to you through other sources such as your previous work or state, to pay for any expenses. Although there are many benefits that these people receive, there are some particularly heinous downfalls that have yet to be addressed by the Irish government.

To start, pension plans many times penalize both men and women who take time off of their careers to be a stay at home parent or caregiver to an elderly family member. These jobs, as hard as they are, do not generate any sort of income and therefore may hinder a hard worker from being able to be properly compensated in the future. By removing these 5-10 years of steady income, there are many instances where these people are physically unable to meet requirements that would give them full contributory pensions.

Unsurprisingly, the current pension plans also affect women, but especially those who were subject to the state’s marriage bar. This bar restricted the ability for married women to be in the workforce; it allowed certain professions with restricted hours sometimes, but for the most part it terminated employment. This extremely sexist bar was first lifted in 1957 only for primary teachers. In 1973 it was lifted for all women.

Many women affected by this bill have not yet retired, but the ones that have on average obtain at least €35 less than their male counterparts per day. Although that seems to be a small gap per day, the yearly difference is at least €12,775.

What is most interesting is that the Irish government is well aware of the changes it has implemented throughout the years, but has yet to apply these changes to extremely important financial situations for its constituents. Pension top-ups give the Irish government to opportunity to compensate people who have been wrongly discriminated against by Irish law, but they have yet to take the opportunity to utilize this tool.

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