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This article was published in SPAG's Newsletter for May 2004.

Women are less likely to get a full state pension - less likely to have an occupational pension - and because they earn less than men, a pension based on their earnings will also be smaller.

The latest (No. 6) in a series of Pensions Briefings produced by the National Assembly of Women provides a useful summary of recent recommendations by a number of organisations, aimed at overcoming some of the disadvantages suffered by women in a pension system "designed by men for men".

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, in a report published in January, noting that the present contribution system denies many women the entitlement to a full state pension, recommends that the basic pension should be paid on the basis of citizenship rather than contribution record.

The Pensions Policy Institute report Under-pensioned challenges Government pension forecasts based on the assumption of a full working life from 16 to pension age, which over-estimate not just women's pensions but those of disabled people, ethnic minorities and others with non-standard work patterns.

The One in Four report, by Age Concern and the Fawcett Society, shows that one in four single women pensioners live in poverty, twice as many women as men rely on means-tested benefits in retirement, and for every 1 pension a man receives, a woman gets only 32p. Their demands are: bring more low-paid workers into National Insurance; introduce more generous contribution credits for carers; scrap the rule under which women with less than 10 years' contributions don't qualify for a pension; and improve the state second pension for women.

The Equal Opportunities Commission, as well as backing Age Concern's demands, has proposed that, where someone is doing more than one part-time job, their earnings should be added together for the purpose of deciding whether they are enough to qualify for state pension. They also want women to be allowed to pay backdated contributions for more than the 6 years now permitted, and they call for "unisex" annuities so that a woman with a lump sum to invest on retirement can buy the same pension a man would get (at present she can't, because it's assumed that, being a woman, she will live longer).

Finally, the Briefing summarises the proposals in the first draft of the National Pensioners Convention's Pensioners' Manifesto, with which regular readers of this Newsletter are already familiar; lists the reasons why the poorest pensioners are women; and puts forward a series of demands, broadly reflecting those of the organisations mentioned above.

Copies of Pensions Briefing 6 can be obtained from Barbara Switzer, 16 Follett Drive, Abbots Langley, Herts WD5 0LP. It's worth asking for Pensions Briefing 5 at the same time - it explains in more detail the defects of both state and private pension provision for women.