Skip to main content

UK Pension Reforms: Is Gender Still an Issue?

  • Jay Ginn (a1) and Ken MacIntyre (a2)

The UK Pensions Commission confirmed that women's domestic roles are crucial to their pension disadvantage. As a result, measures enacted in the Pensions Acts of 2007 and 2008 aimed to make state pensions more inclusive for those with periods out of the labour market for family caring, as well as encouraging more saving through private pensions by those with low to moderate earnings. Will these legislative changes, and subsequent reforms and plans, substantially reduce future gender inequality in UK pensions? In this article, we suggest the benefits to women will be patchy and overall less than expected. We first review the interaction of male-oriented pension schemes with the gendered division of caring labour and how this has changed for later cohorts of women. We then analyse, from a gender perspective, the pension reforms and proposals since 2007. Finally, we consider policy alternatives that would give women a better deal in pensions and conclude with an assessment of the mixed effects of pension reforms.

Hide All
Aon Consulting (2007) European Pensions Barometer Report, London: Aon.
Arber, S. and Ginn, J. (1991) Gender and Later Life: A Sociological Analysis of Resources and Constraints, London: Sage, p. 135, Table 8.3.
Arber, S. and Ginn, J. (1995) ‘Gender differences in informal care’, Health and Social Care in the Community, 3, 1, 1931.
Arber, S. and Ginn, J. (2004) ‘Ageing and gender: diversity and change’, Social Trends, 2004 Edition, No. 34, London: The Stationery Office, pp. 114.
Banks, J., Lessof, C., Nazroo, J., Rogers, N., Stafford, M. and Steptoe, A. (eds.) (2010) Financial Circumstances, Health and Well-Being of the Older Population in England: The 2008 English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, London: Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Carrera, L., Redwood, D. and Adams, J. (2012) An Assessment of the Government's Options for State Pension Reform, London: Pensions Policy Institute.
Department of Social Security (1998) A New Contract for Welfare: Partnership in Pensions, Cm 4179, London: The Stationery Office.
Department for Work and Pensions (2002) Simplicity, Security and Choice, London: DWP, Chapter 7.
Department for Work and Pensions (2007) The Gender Impact of Pension Reform, London: DWP.
Department of Work and Pensions (2010) ‘Basic state pension, 2010 prices, and as percentage of average earnings’, Statistical Abstracts, London: DWP, Table 2.1.
Department for Work and Pensions (2012) Income Related Benefits: Estimates of Take-up in 2009–10, London: DWP.
Equal Opportunities Commission (2005) ‘Women and pensions’, [accessed 25.05.2012].
Ginn, J. (2003) Gender, Pensions and the Lifecourse: How Pensions Need to Adapt to Changing Family Forms, Bristol: The Policy Press.
Ginn, J. and Arber, S. (1993) ‘Pension penalties: the gendered division of occupational welfare’, Work, Employment and Society, 7, 1, 4770.
Ginn, J. and Arber, S. (1996) ‘Patterns of employment, gender and pensions: the effect of work history on older women's non-state pensions’, Work, Employment and Society, 10, 3, 469–90.
Ginn, J. and Arber, S. (2002) ‘Degrees of freedom: can graduate women avoid the motherhood gap in pensions?’, Sociological Research On-Line, [accessed 15.01.2012].
Ginn, J. and Price, D. (2002) ‘Do divorced women catch up in pension building?’, Child and Family Law Quarterly, 14, 2, 157–73.
Gray, A. (2005) ‘The changing availability of grandparents as carers and its implications for childcare policy in the UK’, Journal of Social Policy, 34, 4, 557–77.
Guardian (2005) ‘Minister criticises women's pensions “scandal”’, 9 March, [accessed 25.05.2012].
Hansard (2011) ‘Pensions: personal savings’, 4 February, [accessed 29.05.2012].
The Independent (2008) 25 October.
Itzin, C. and Phillipson, C. (1993) Age Barriers at Work: Maximising the Potential of Mature and Older Workers, Solihull: Metropolitan Authorities Recruitment Agency.
Land, H. (1994) ‘The demise of the male breadwinner – in practice but not in theory: a challenge for social security systems’, in Baldwin, S. and Falkingham, J. (eds.), Social Security and Social Change: New Challenges to the Beveridge Model, Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, pp. 100–15.
Long, S. (2010) ‘Demolishing the entire superannuation system’, [accessed 29.05.2012].
Loretto, W. and Vickerstaff, S. (2010) ‘The relationship between gender and age’, in Parry, E. and Tyson, S. (eds.), Managing an Age-Diverse Workforce, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 5979.
McKay, S. (2010) ‘Never too old? Attitudes towards longer working lives’, British Social Attitudes Survey, 26th Report, London: National Centre for Social Research, Chapter 8.
Mann, K. (2007) ‘Activation, retirement policy, and restoring the third age’, Social Policy and Society, 6, 3, 279–92.
Minns, R., Ginn, J. and Davies, B. (2010) ‘Funded pensions; what are they for? An enquiry into their lesser known functions’, OU FIES website [accessed 25.05.2012].
Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2009) Wealth in Great Britain, London: ONS.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2010) ‘Pension scheme membership’, Pensions Trends, London: ONS, Chapter 7.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2012) provided from Labour Force Survey datasets, October to December 2010, extracted 4 January 2012.
Pensions Commission (2004) Pensions: Challenges and Choices, The First Report, London: The Stationery Office.
Pensions Commission (2005) A New Pension Settlement for the Twenty-first Century, The Second Report, London: The Stationery Office.
Pensions Policy Institute (2010) Pension Facts, London: PPI, Table 29.
Pensions Policy Institute (2011) What Are the Implications of the Government's Latest Legislation Increasing the State Pension Age?, PPI Briefing Note 60, London: PPI.
Pike, R. (2011) ‘Patterns of pay: results of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 1997–2010’, Economic and Labour Market Review, 3, 5 March, London: ONS, pp. 1440.
Price, D. (2005) ‘Pension futures: marital status and patterns of work’, paper prepared for the Equal Opportunities Commission response to the Pension Commission Report.
Price, D. (2007) ‘Closing the gender gap in retirement income: what difference will recent UK pension reforms make?’, Journal of Social Policy, 36, 4, 561–83.
Price, D. (2008) ‘Pension accumulation and gendered household structures: what are the implications of changes in family formation for future financial inequality?’, in Miles, J. and Probert, R. (eds.), Money and Relationships, Oxford: Hart Publishing, pp. 257–82.
Queisser, M. and Whitehouse, E. (2006) ‘Comparing the pension promises of 30 OECD countries’, International Social Security Review, 59, 3, 4977.
Rys, V. (2010) Reinventing Social Security Worldwide, Bristol: The Policy Press.
Sefton, T., Evandrou, M. and Falkingham, J. (2011) ‘Family ties: women's work and family histories and their association with incomes in later life in the UK’, Journal of Social Policy, 40, 1, 4169.
Smeaton, D. and McKay, S. (2003) Working After State Pension Age: Quantitative Analysis, Department of Work and Pensions Research Report No. 182, London: DWP.
Thane, P. (2006) ‘The “scandal” of women's pensions in Britain: how did it come about?’, in Pemberton, H., Thane, P. and Whiteside, N. (eds.), Britain's Pensions Crisis: History and Policy, London: British Academy, pp. 7790.
Waine, B. (2007), ‘Individualising pension provision in the UK’, paper given at the European Network for Research on Supplementary Pension Provision, Paris, 17–18 December.
Westaway, J. and McKay, S. (2007) Women's Financial Assets and Debts, London: The Fawcett Society.
Warren, T. (2003) ‘A privileged pole? Diversity in women's pay, pensions and wealth in Britain’, Gender, Work and Organisation, 10, 5, 605–28.
Woods, L., Makepeace, G., Joshi, H. and Dolton, P. (2003) ‘The world of paid work’, in Ferri, E., Bynner, J. and Wadsworth, M. (eds.), Changing Britain, Changing Lives: Three Generations at the Turn of the Century, London: Institute of Education, Chapter 3.
Zaidi, A. (2010) Poverty Risks for Older People in EU Countries – An Update, Policy Brief January (11), Vienna: European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research,
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
  • URL: /core/journals/social-policy-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 14
Total number of PDF views: 365 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 854 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st August 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.