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Women more likely to have empty pension pot

Published on 22 September 2015 11:01 PM

Women in work twice as likely to have an empty pension pot as men

New research by the Pensions Policy Institute, sponsored by Age UK, shows that a third of women in work are ineligible for automatic enrolment into a workplace pension, leaving many at risk of not having a decent income in later life. This compares with 16 per cent of male employees.[i]

The research comes from ‘Who is ineligible for automatic enrolment',[ii] an evidence-based paper examining whether different demographic groups meet the criteria.

The paper highlights that just under a quarter (23 per cent) of all employees do not meet the qualifying criteria and of these 57 per cent are ineligible because they earn less than £10,000 a year. This illustrates not only the problems faced by many women workers but also disabled workers, ethnic minorities, recipients of Carer's Allowance, those with more than one part time job and people who work in the service industry.

The research also reveals:

  • 81 per cent of workers receiving Carer's Allowance do not qualify for automatic enrolment.
  • Ethnic minority groups are less likely to meet the qualifying criteria. For example, about a third of Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers are not eligible, compared to 23 per cent of white workers.
  • 30 per cent of disabled workers (900,000 people) are also not eligible
  • Only 55 per cent of people working in the service industries are eligible compared to 80 per cent in most other sectors.

These figures, however, only include people who are employees, and there are many more who do not qualify because they are self-employed or not in work. Of the total population aged 16-64 about half qualify for automatic enrolment.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:

'While automatic enrolment has so far been a resounding success at engaging more people in pension saving, these figures show that many lower earners are being excluded from workplace pensions. We must make sure that more people benefit so they do not reach retirement with an empty pension pot. We would like to see the auto-enrolment threshold lowered, so more people can enjoy a better-standard of living in retirement.

'With people living longer it is more important than ever that people get the chance of a private pension.'

Daniela Silcock, Head of Policy Research at the Pensions Policy Institute, said:

'This research highlights that while automatic enrolment is helping many lower paid people to save in a workplace pension, employed people from disadvantaged groups are disproportionately likely to be ineligible. Policy-makers will want to observe trends and assess whether any people are in danger of being excluded from automatic enrolment for the long term.'

 Who is ineligible for automatic enrolment? (PDF 405 KB)opens link in new window



Notes to editors


Contact: Liz Fairweather

Telephone: 020 3033 1718

Out of hours: 07071 243 243

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

The Pensions Act 2008 provided automatic enrolment into workplace pension schemes and the scheme began in 2012. By the end of June 2015 20.2 million workers had been assessed for eligibility. 9.3 million were already members of a qualifying scheme. 5.3 million people were automatically enrolled into a workplace pension scheme. However 5.2 million people working were found to be ineligible.

[i] This does not include self-employed workers, who are not eligible for automatic enrolment.

[ii] ‘Who is ineligible for automatic enrolment' is part of a wider project led by the Pensions Policy Institute that is exploring gaps where people will not receive the full state pension or a private pension, to be published in 2016.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we"). Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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