Elected representatives have a duty to understand the lives of the people we represent as best we can, and to do what we can to improve things – even when we don’t have the power to change things directly. That is why we in Labour support those asking the Government to think again about changes to the state pension rules which are causing hardship to women born in the 1950s.
The gender pay gap has made the headlines recently. This gap was much greater in the past, meaning that older women had less to put by for retirement, or to pay in to an occupational pension. To help the family budget, many women opted not to pay in to an occupational pension, anticipating receiving the State Pension at age 60.
Of course, the State Pension Age (SPA) should be the same for women and men, but the way the changes have been brought in is unfair. There was little, or no notice given, and the changes were brought in sooner than originally planned. This gave women no chance to rethink retirement plans. Due to changes to the SPA itself, some women will not be able to claim their pension until several years later than they expected.
The Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign is asking for a ‘bridging’ pension to provide an income until women reach the (new) State Pension age, and compensation for losses for those women who have already reached their SPA.
We are not asking for something to which we are not entitled. Women’s contribution to the economy has always been as important as men’s – even though much of that contribution has gone unrecognised and unpaid. The unpaid ‘caring work’ alone, that has been done by women, has saved the state billions, and so it could be argued that we have earned many times over what the ‘WASPI women’ are asking for. So far, the Government has refused to respond to concerns that have been raised, but women are used to having to struggle to be heard, and the WASPI campaign will continue!
Cllr Karen Sudan
Labour, West Green