Publication

Gender equality and the 100 year life

By a range of metrics, gender equality in the UK has improved. But there is a risk that increased longevity and the 100-year life could act as a barrier to greater equality or even result in increased inequality between men and women.

This is the second report of the series focusing on how the 100-year life may affect Britain’s society, economy and public services. This report focuses on gender equality and how policymakers can make the 100-year life work for women. Research conducted by Insuring Women’s Futures on risk patterns highlighted the six “moments that matter” in the lives of British women – these are used as the basis for this research.

Moment 1: Growing up, studying and re-qualifying and Moment 2: Entering and re-entering the workplace
Decisions made early in life have a significant impact on the life course and eventual outcomes of individuals. Gender differences in subject of study, can influence earnings upon entry to the labour market. The wage differential continues to grow during women’s careers. As lifespans rise, people will retire later meaning the length of time in work will increase – and as it does, wage gaps between men and women may grow.

Moment 3: Relationships: making and breaking up and Moment 4: Motherhood and becoming a carer
Our analysis of the Wealth and Assets Survey shows that a married couple over 50 have almost three times the pension wealth of the average divorced woman over 50; the distribution of pension assets skews heavily towards men. The divorce rate is only declining in those under the age of 45. Leaving the labour market to provide care can have serious consequences on the current and future income of women. We can hypothesise that longer lives will lead to an increase in the number of unpaid family carers in the UK and the amount of time spent caring for loved ones.

Moment 5: Later life, planning and entering retirement and Moment 6: Ill-health, infirmity and dying
Lower incomes throughout women’s lives lead to lower pension savings and subsequently lower incomes in retirement. Differences in working patterns account for the largest part of the gender pension gap– this is due to periods out of work to care for children or family members. An aspect which could increase in the age of extreme longevity. Given the longevity of women it is essential that they are saving enough for retirement and make a well-informed decision on how best to convert their pension into an income.

The roles undertaken by men and women are dependent on a range of factors – including their opinions and attitudes to different issues and topics. This report draws on polling conducted by Opinium for AIG Life. A striking finding from the research is the difference between the proportion of men stating they share caring duties equally and to the proportion of women who say the same. Among men aged 35 to 54, over a third (37%) state that they share caring duties equally with their partner. Among women of the same age, only one in five (20%) say the same. The gender differences are perhaps clearest when people are asked about siblings: over one third (34%) of people with sisters believed that their sister should contribute to the care of their parents, but only 27% of people said a brother should help.

We put forward five policy recommendations to help alleviate some of the gender disparities in society:

  • Establish an evidence base on teacher demographics. The Government should commit to review the demographics of secondary school teachers in the UK. Following this review, the Government should look at ways to promote greater diversity in teaching and within specific subjects: more female teachers in male-dominated subjects could encourage female uptake of maths and sciences.
  • The right to request flexible working; The government should amend the Flexible Working Regulation (2014) to allow workers to request flexible working from the first day of employment. To allow those who work flexibly to move on and upwards in their careers, the government should call on all firms to state whether the job can be done on a part time or flexible basis within the job specification.
  • Pension requirements; The government should require all firms to publish their pension policy when advertising job vacancies. With the aim of encouraging workers to pay more attention to their long-term pension accumulation.
  • Pension contribution changes; The Government should commit to paying into the pensions of individuals who leave the labour market to have children or care for family members.
  • Retirement income data; The Financial Conduct Authority should continue to publish data on the decisions being made by individuals accessing their pension pot. This data should be split by gender to highlight any differences in the decisions being made.

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