The pension act of 1995: an attempt at equality backfires for women today

Image credit: Nick Youngson

The promise of a State Pension to take you through retirement is an expectation considered as a given: regardless of your employment history, marital status or gender, the assurance that you will have a basic pot of money to support you in your old age, provided you have paid or been credited with National Insurance contributions, is a right all people of this nation have. Yet recent changes implemented to the State Pension scheme, in a bid to equalise the State Pension Age between men and women, have left some women without the financial independence they were due, and hence disrupted their retirement plans and fiscal stability.

In 1995, the Conservative Government’s Pension Act included the policy to equalise the State Pension Age, by increasing the women’s age to 65, the same as men’s; an action that seemed to be a positive statement of equality between males and females in a financial matter that would impact both parties. But this was implemented haphazardly and chaotically; too rapidly for women to readjust their plans or re-evaluate their monetary standing. The increases caused hundreds of thousands of women born on or after 6th April 1951 to face fiscal hardship; some were not personally notified of these changes despite facing an increase in retirement age of four, five, or six years, and hence were unable to form alternative strategies to cope until it was too late. Some were also hit with a second increase as a result of the 2011 Pension Act, leaving women of a similar age facing a disproportionately longer wait for their pension: a one year difference in birthday can make an almost three-year difference to state pension age.

With no compensation and no other source of income (as, until the 1990s, many women weren’t allowed to join company pension schemes), the consequences have been dire. It seems, in an effort to create equality, the government have only succeeded in promoting inequality. The WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign group was set up by five women in 2015 in an attempt to combat these unfair changes, by trying “to achieve fair transitional state pension arrangements for all women born in the 1950s affected by the changes to the state pension law (1995/2011 acts)” but so far their efforts have been ignored. Yet, by the time their petition closed after six months, WASPI had 193,186 signatures; and their website has received over 1,000,000 hits. Though it is rarely reported on, it seems WASPI’s campaign is a popular one.

Whilst the policy to align the State Pension Age was undeniably an attempt at a progressive movement towards equality, and has consequences which do not directly affect us, it is our mothers and grandmothers who are suffering. And they are suffering today, right now – as WASPI demonstrates the lack of public knowledge of the changes to Pension Acts and their consequences have caused a troubling situation for many women born in the 1950s. WASPI aspires to “paint the town purple” in order to raise public awareness of the injustice caused by the Conservative’s policy. Though some are already feeling the terrible results, the situation can be changed. People must speak out against the unfair nature of the pace of change in order to alter the transition and ultimately prevent other women from needlessly suffering.

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