Handbook on Gender and Social Policy
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Handbook on Gender and Social Policy

Edited by Sheila Shaver

Providing a state of the art overview, this comprehensive Handbook is an essential introduction to the subject of Gender and Social Policy. Bringing together original contributions and research from leading researchers it covers the theoretical perspectives of the field, the central policy terrain of gender inequalities of income, employment and care, and family policy. Examining gender and social policy at both the regional and national level, the Handbook is an excellent resource for advanced students and scholars of sociology, political science, women’s studies, policy studies as well as practitioners seeking to understand how gender shapes the contours of social policy and politics.
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Chapter 10: Transmitting inequality: pensions policy and the gendered life course

Liam Foster and Jay Ginn


Pensioner poverty is not experienced equally by all groups, with women over-represented in pensioner poverty compared with their male counterparts. The gendered nature of poverty in older age reflects women’s constrained opportunities across the life course, including the unequal provision of care (inside and outside the household) and its impact on employment. The degree of gender inequality in later life reflects the extent to which pension systems address these diverse experiences and compensate for women’s relative disadvantage in the division of work and care. This chapter uses a life-course perspective to explore how gender differences in employment and earnings are reflected in lower asset accumulation and pension income. Initially, we outline why the life-course perspective assists our understanding of women’s economic disadvantage in retirement. We subsequently review gender differences in employment and family care provision, showing how the gender-biased design of state and private pension schemes is central to women’s higher levels of poverty in retirement in OECD countries. We show how the increasing dominance of neoliberalism has led to curtailment of welfare states and promotion of market pension schemes. Finally, we suggest the need for a greater recognition of women’s diverse life histories in policy measures to improve women’s financial independence in later life.

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