Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Pensions: Unfair attacks on an already unfair system

The ongoing attack on ordinary older working age women and men is gaining pace and ferocity, which we must be prepared to stand up to.

All 3 main parties are committed to raising the retirement age for men and women to 66 and then soon after to 67, the difference being the coalition wants to do it even sooner, now by 2016 for men and 2020 for women.

The impact on older working age women (50+) is horrific, and the poorer they are the worse it will be. Firstly the retirement age is to go up from 60 to 65 within 6 years in 2018 – a rise of 5 years of forced extra work. This is unfair on so many levels, but one of them being that women who started work between 30 and 40 years ago have been given n time to prepare for this especially as saving for a pension was not a task required earlier in their life. The contract they started with which presumed that they could retire on their pension has been broken. As a result, 500,000 women aged 56 and 57 will endure a delay in their state pension of over a year; 33,000 will face a delay of two years.

On top of this women tend to get smaller state pensions and second pensions as they have often been out of the labour market while bringing up children and are more likely to be in part time employment. Employer pensions have also tended to be lower for women – with women receiving on average 15.7 % lower of the average male wage and again many have only been offered part time work. Many service industry and health and social care jobs are low paid and have been given predominantly to women and have little or no pension entitlements attached. In addition lower paid public sector jobs (including the NHS) are more likely to be carried out by women generating low pensions which are at present under attack by the government forcing people to work longer and pay in more. Finally the private pension sector has seen its own profits and that of its senior employees rise enormously but that has not translated for the majority of small pension holders into adequate pension benefits ( remember Equitable Life).

This has left us in the UK with one of the lowest levels of pensions in the EU for the majority of workers, especially women. Even the Netherlands, which has the second-lowest level, provides a state pension nearly double the UK figure. the value of Britain's state pension for a single person is 30.8% of the average wage. This figure is 32.5% in Ireland, 39.9% in Germany and 51.2% in France.

The result is that for many of us when we retire we move immediately into poverty – even with pension credits the total individual state pension payment is around £125 per week.
This is the situation today and now the government wants to make it worse forcing us to work longer to get minimal pension payments. Meanwhile our own research and drawing on figures from the Office of National Statistics has shown that the number of workless aged between 50 – 65 has grown to over 3.5 million, with the present public sector redundancies and cuts overwhelmingly targeting the over 50s ( over 66% of local authorities redundancies have been forced on the over 50s) this will get even worse. ONS figures show that for the over 50s at present, there is only a 16% chance of getting re-employed over the next year, that’s the lowest figure in a decade.

So while we are being forced to work longer and be denied our pension we are also being forced out of work so are having to rely on minimal state benefits that are even less than a pension.

In the face of all this Wise Owls supports the campaigns to stop this raising of the pension age, to halt the current timetable to force women to work 5,6 and then 7 years longer and to demand a basic living pension for all women and men.

We would also urge people to support our campaign against public sector redundancies especially the targeting of older workers and to support our Promoting Age Diversity campaign, which is geared to getting employers from all sectors to employ an age diverse workforce of older, younger and middle aged workers encouraging greater numbers of employees.

Given the level of opposition and resistance across the UK and now even more so across the EU to the government driven attacks on the standard of living of ordinary working people as a result of the tax avoidance and lack of taxation or regulation speculation by banks, large financial and global institutions and their millionaire owners and senior staff we would urge our fellow baby boomers to remember the lessons of the past.

Unless we take action then nothing will change, and we should support the youth, the social activists and working people who are now actively campaigning to force a new socially and economically just approach towards solving this crisis of capital
Wise owls

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