The National Women’s Council of Ireland as well as members of the Dáil have strongly attacked Government for failing to address pension inequalities in Budget 2018, claiming they are “being left out in the cold and forgotten about” through “blatant discrimination”.
Women who were impacted by the marriage bar and those who took time out of work to look after children or care for elderly relatives for a number of years are now being penalised in their contributory state pensions.
While Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday admitted this is wrong and claimed he was not trying to “gouge” any women, he said the State does not have the €290m which it would cost to address the issue.
“It just seems incredible now that we did live in a country that required women to leave their jobs if they got married and equally what we are living with is the consequences of that now,” Mr Donohoe said.
“The advice that I have available to me is that if we looked to rectify this issue in a single move, in a single budget it would cost hundreds of millions of euro for me to do because of the number of people that are affected by it,” he told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke show.
Mr Donohoe was responding to one listener who said his wife will receive €35 less a week in her contributory pension as a result of the rule.
Workers, mainly women, who took time out to care for elderly relatives or to look after children, are penalised as their pensions are averaged out from the time they first began working and do not take account of the period at home where they would not have been paying contributions.
While the homemakers scheme, introduced in 1994, meant that time spent caring for children, the elderly or ill is now disregarded when calculating contributory pensions, it does not apply prior to that date.
Eilís Ní Chaithnía of the National Women’s Council said the highest number of calls her organisation receives is now in relation to pension entitlements.
“Women are shocked and extremely disappointed with what they receive when they enter retirement.
“They feel let down by the State.”
While she acknowledged public finances are still tight she said: “There have been decisions made in this budget around income tax reductions and retention of other taxes, so Government has made decisions, it has weighed up it’s priorities.
“When they are not addressing this, they are very much identifying it as not a priority,” she said.
In the Dáil yesterday, Independent TD Michael Collins, who previously raised the issue with former taoiseach Enda Kenny in May, said women have been left “high and dry” through a lack of provision in Budget 2018.
“These women have saved the State millions of euros in what would have been spent for child care or carers’ fees. These women went back to work for a number of years after their families were reared and are now realising they do not have enough stamps to receive a state pension.”
Mr Collins said: “Many homemakers in my constituency of Cork South West have brought this issue to my attention. They feel that they have been discriminated against.
Green Party TD Catherine Martin said: “Tens of thousands of women are out in the cold and forgotten, they deserve better, they deserve equality, this budget was an opportunity for the Government to end this blatant discrimination.”
“Let us not forget the State enforced marriage bar which up until 1973 meant women had no choice but to give up their public service and civil service jobs when they got married.”