Edited by Sheila Shaver
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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