Procedure : 2016/2061(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0197/2017

Texts tabled :

A8-0197/2017

Debates :

PV 12/06/2017 - 18
CRE 12/06/2017 - 18

Votes :

PV 14/06/2017 - 8.6
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2017)0260

REPORT     
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12.5.2017
PE 589.332v03-00 A8-0197/2017

on the need for an EU strategy to end and prevent the gender pension gap

(2016/2061(INI))

Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality

Rapporteur: Constance Le Grip

Rapporteur for the opinion(*):

Tania González Peñas, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

(*) Associated committee – Rule 54 of the Rules of Procedure

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 MINORITY OPINION
 OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
 INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE
 FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the need for an EU strategy to end and prevent the gender pension gap

(2016/2061(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 2 and Article 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 8, 151, 153 and 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, in particular its provisions on social rights and on equality between women and men,

–  having regard to Articles 22 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 16: The equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights (Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)),(1) and UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 19: The right to social security (Article 9 of the ICESCR),(2)

  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020),

–  having regard to Articles 4(2), 4(3), 12, 20 and 23 of the European Social Charter,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the European Committee of Social Rights of 5 December 2014(3),

–  having regard to Council Directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security(4),

–  having regard to Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation(5),

–  having regard to Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services(6),

–  having regard to Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast)(7),

–  having regard to the Commission Roadmap of August 2015 on a new start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families,

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 3 December 2015 entitled ‘Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019’ (SWD(2015)0278), and in particular to Objective 3.2 thereof,

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2011 on the situation of women approaching retirement age(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2011 on the situation of single mothers(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 May 2012 with recommendations to the Commission on application of the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 March 2013 on the impact of the economic crisis on gender equality and women’s rights(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 March 2015 on progress on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2013(12),

–  having regard to its resolution of 9 June 2015 on the EU Strategy for equality between women and men post 2015(13),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 October 2015 on the application of Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation(14),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2016 on creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance(15),

  having regard to the Council conclusions of 19 June 2015 on ‘Equal income opportunities for women and men: Closing the gender gap in pensions’,

  having regard to the declaration of 7 December 2015 by the EU Presidency Trio (Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta) on gender equality,

–  having regard to the European Pact for Gender Equality (2011-2020), adopted by the Council on 7 March 2011,

–  having regard to its study ‘The gender pension gap: differences between mothers and women without children’ (2016) and the Commission study ‘The Gender Gap in Pensions in the EU’ (2013),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0197/2017),

A.  whereas in 2014 in the EU the gender gap in pensions, which may be defined as the gap between the average pre-tax income received as a pension by women and that received by men, stood at 39.4 % in the 65 and over age group, and has increased in half of the Member States in the past five years; whereas the financial crisis of the last few years has had a negative impact on many women’s incomes, and on average in the long term more than on men's incomes; whereas in some Member States between 11 and 36 % of women have no access at all to any pension;

B.  whereas equality between women and men is one of the common and fundamental principles enshrined in Articles 2 and 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union, Article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; whereas gender equality should likewise be mainstreamed in all EU policies, initiatives, programmes and actions;

C.  whereas women enjoy poorer pension entitlements and payments than men in most EU Member States and are both over-represented in the poorest pensioner groups and under-represented in the wealthiest;

D.  whereas these disparities are unacceptable and should be reduced and all pension contributions be calculated and levied in a gender-neutral manner in the EU, which has gender equality as one of its founding principles, as well as the right of all people to a life in dignity as one of its fundamental rights as enshrined in the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the EU;

E.  whereas a pension is the main source of income for one person in four in the EU-28, and whereas the significant increase in the number of people of pensionable age brought about by rising life expectancy and the overall ageing of the population will result in the doubling of that figure by 2060;

F.  whereas, as a result of demographic change, in future fewer and fewer active employees will have to provide for ever more pensioners, which means that private and occupational old age pension schemes will become increasingly important;

G.  whereas the aim of pension policies is to ensure economic independence, which is essential for equality between women and men, and that social security systems in the Member States give all EU citizens a decent and adequate retirement income and an acceptable standard of living and safeguard them against the risk of poverty resulting from various factors or from social exclusion, so as to guarantee active social, cultural and political participation and life with dignity in old age, in order to continue to be part of society;

H.  whereas growing individual responsibility for decisions regarding savings entailing different risks also means that individuals have to be clearly informed of the options available and the associated risks; whereas both women and men, and in particular women, have to be supported in improving their financial literacy level, in order to be able to make informed decisions in an increasingly complex area;

I.  whereas the pension gap tends to exacerbate the situation of women with regard to economic vulnerability and leaves them exposed to social exclusion, permanent poverty and economic dependence, in particular on their spouses or other family members; whereas the pay and pensions gap is even more pronounced for women with multiple disadvantages or belonging to racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, given that they are often in jobs requiring fewer skills with less responsibility;

J.  whereas pensions linked to individual rather than to derived rights could help guarantee everyone’s economic independence, reduce disincentives to participation in formal work, and minimise gender stereotypes;

K.  whereas, owing to their longer life expectancy, women are likely on average to require more pension income than men to cover their retirement; whereas such additional income may be available to them from survivor's pension mechanisms;

L.  whereas the lack of comparable, comprehensive, reliable and regularly updated data on the basis of which to gauge the size of the pension gap and the relative importance of the factors that contribute to it makes it difficult to determine how best to tackle the problem;

M.  whereas the gap is larger (at more than 40 %) in the 65-74 age group than it is for all over-65s on average, in particular as a result of the fact that entitlements may in some cases, such as widowhood, be transferred in some Member States;

N.  whereas pension cuts and freezes increase the risk of poverty in old age, particularly among women; whereas the percentage of older women at risk of poverty and social exclusion stood at 20.2 % in 2014, compared with 14.6 % of men, and by 2050 the proportion of people over 75 at risk of poverty could reach 30 % in most Member States;

O.  whereas people over 65 have income worth around 94 % of the average for the population as a whole; whereas, nevertheless, around 22 % of women over 65 live below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold;

P.  whereas the average pension gap for the EU as a whole in 2014 concealed major disparities between n Member States; whereas, by way of comparison, the lowest gender pension gap is 3.7 % and the highest is 48.8 %, while the gap exceeds 30 % in 14 Members States;

Q.  whereas the percentage of the population receiving a pension varies widely between the Member States, standing at 11 % in Cyprus and 25 % in Belgium in 2012, whilst in countries such as Spain, Ireland and Malta, only 10 % or less of women receive a pension;

R.  whereas the pension gap, which is the product of a range of factors, is a reflection of the gender imbalance that exists in relation to careers and family life, as well as opportunities to make pension contributions, position within the family group and the way in which income is calculated for pension purposes; whereas it also reflects labour market segregation and the higher proportion of women working part-time, for lower hourly wages, with career breaks and with less years in employment owing to the unpaid work performed by women as mothers and as caregivers in their families; whereas, therefore, the pension gap should be regarded as a key indicator of gender inequality in the labour market, all the more since the current level of the gender pension gap is very close to the total income gap (40.2 %);

S.  whereas the full extent of the pension gap, which is the product of all cumulated gender imbalances and inequalities - in terms, for example, of lifelong access to power and financial resources - that arise throughout people's working lives and are mirrored in first and second pillar pensions, may be masked by corrective mechanisms;

T.  whereas the pension gap, when examined at any given moment, is a reflection of social and labour market conditions over a period stretching back several decades; whereas those conditions are subject to sometimes major changes which will have a knock-on effect on the needs of various generations of women pensioners;

U.  whereas the pension gap differs from one woman pensioner to another according to personal, social, marital and/or family status; whereas, in view of this, a one-size-fits-all approach will not necessarily produce the best results;

V.  whereas single-parent households are particularly vulnerable since they represent 10 % of all households with dependent children, and 50 % of those are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, double the rate for the population as a whole; whereas there is a positive correlation between the pension gap and the number of children brought up, and whereas the gender pension gap of married women and mothers is much greater than that of single women without children; whereas, in view of this, the inequalities suffered by mothers, especially single mothers, are likely to be exacerbated when they retire;

W.  whereas discrimination related to pregnancy and parental leave tends to impel mothers - who represent 79.76 % of the persons who reduce their working time in order to care for children aged less than eight - into low-wage or part-time jobs or undesired career breaks to take care of their children; whereas maternity, paternity and parental leave are necessary and vital instruments for the better sharing of care-related tasks, improving work-life balance and minimising women's career breaks;

X.  whereas the pay levels and thus the pension entitlements of fathers are unaffected, or may even be positively affected, by the number of their children;

Y.  whereas the female unemployment rate is underestimated, given the fact that many women are not registered as unemployed, particularly those living in rural or remote areas, many of whom also devote themselves exclusively to household tasks and childcare; whereas this creates disparities in their pensions;

Z.  whereas traditional working time arrangements make it difficult for couples in which both parents wish to work full time to strike a proper work-life balance;

AA.  whereas pension credits for men and women as a form of allowance for caring for children or family members could help ensure that career breaks for reasons of care do not have a negative impact on pensions, and it would be desirable for such schemes to be extended to or stepped up in all the Member States;

AB.  whereas pension credits applying to all forms of work could help all workers, from paid employees to the self-employed;

AC.  whereas, although some efforts have been made to improve the situation in this area, the employment rate among women still falls short of the Europe 2020 strategy targets, and is still far lower than that among men; whereas women’s increasing labour market participation contributes to efforts to reduce the gender pension gap in the EU, as there is a direct link between labour market participation and the level of pension; whereas, however, the employment rate contains no information about duration or type of employment and is thus limited in what it can tell us about pay and pension levels;

AD.  whereas the number of years worked has a direct impact on pension income; whereas women’s careers are on average more than 10 years shorter than men’s, and whereas the pension gap is twice as large for women who have worked for less than 14 years (at 64 %) than for those who have worked for a longer period (32 %);

AE.  whereas women are more likely than men to take career breaks, have precarious contracts, take on non-standard forms of employment, work part-time (32 % of women in comparison with 8.2 % of men) or on an unpaid basis, especially when they provide care for children and relatives and have almost sole responsibility for care and housework owing to persisting gender inequalities, or because employers, for example, expect them to take on such responsibilities at a later stage of life, all this being to the detriment of their pensions;

AF.  whereas investment in schools, pre-school education, universities and care for elderly people can help create a better work-life balance for women and can result in the long term not only in the creation of jobs, but also in women obtaining high-quality employment and being able to stay in the labour market for longer, which will in the long term have a positive effect on their pensions;

AG.  whereas informal care and voluntary work are fundamental pillars of our society and are to a large extent carried out by women, such imbalance being reflected in the gender gap in pensions; whereas these kinds of invisible work are not sufficiently recognized and not always taken into account, especially when considering pension entitlements;

AH.  whereas there continues to be a large gender pay gap in the EU; whereas that gap, which stood at 16.3 % in 2014, is caused in particular by discrimination and segregation resulting in the over-representation of women in sectors where pay is lower than in sectors dominated mainly by men; whereas other factors, such as career breaks or entering into involuntary part-time work to combine work and family responsibilities, stereotypes, undervaluing of women's work, and differences in levels of education and professional experience also contribute to the gender pay gap;

AI.  whereas policies designed to increase rates of high-quality employment among groups with the highest unemployment rates, such as women, young people, people with disabilities, people over 55, the long-term unemployed and immigrants, would help preserve the sustainability of the pension system and mitigate the dependency ratio in public systems;

AJ.  whereas the EU’s objective of achieving adequate social protection is enshrined in Article 151 TFEU; whereas the EU should therefore support Member States by making recommendations on improving protection for older people entitled to a pension by virtue of their age or personal situation;

AK.  whereas the European Social Charter states, in its Article 4.1 on the right to fair remuneration, that with a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to a fair remuneration, ‘the Parties undertake to recognise the right of workers to a remuneration such as will give them and their families a decent standard of living’; whereas in its conclusions of 5 December 2014 the European Committee of Social Rights stated that ‘in order to ensure a decent standard of living within the meaning of Article 4§1 of the 1961 Charter, remuneration must be above the minimum threshold, set at 60 % of the net average wage’;

AL.  whereas universal, residence-based or flat-rate minimum pensions indexed to wages appear to be particularly favourable to gender equality, because the full basic pension is paid irrespective of previous employment status or family circumstances;

AM.  whereas the strengthening of the linkage between contributions and earnings, taken together with the increasingly prominent role played by second and third pillar schemes in pension systems, is shifting the risk of the appearance of gender-specific factors in the pension gap towards private-sector providers;

AN.  whereas no ex ante or ex post gender impact assessments were conducted for the reforms to pension systems laid out in the Commission’s white paper on pensions of 2012; whereas this is evidence of gaps in the EU’s policy of ensuring effective gender equality across the board;

AO.  whereas Member States have sole responsibility for the organisation of public social security systems and pension systems; whereas the EU has primarily a supporting competence in the field of pension schemes, particularly under Article 153 TFEU;

General remarks

1.  Calls on the Commission to work closely with the Member States in establishing a strategy for putting an end to the gender gap in pensions in the European Union;

2.  Believes that this strategy should seek not only to address at Member State level the impact of the pension gap, in particular on the most vulnerable groups, but also to prevent it in the future by fighting its underlying causes, such as unequal positions between women and men in the labour market in terms of pay, career advancement and opportunities to work full time, as well as labour market segregation; encourages, in this regard, intergovernmental dialogue and best practice sharing among the Members States;

3.  Points out that the female unemployment rate is underestimated given the fact that many women are not registered as unemployed, particularly those who live in rural or remote areas or help out in family firms, along with many of those who devote themselves exclusively to household tasks and childcare;

4.  Stresses that a multifaceted approach, with a combination of actions under different policies that aim at improving gender equality, is required in order to make a success of the strategy, which must embrace a life-course approach to pensions, taking the whole of the person's working life into account, as well as addressing disparities between men and women in terms of employment level, careers, and possibilities of paying pension contributions, as well as those resulting from the way in which pension systems are organised; calls on the Commission and the Member States to follow up on the Council conclusions of 18 June 2015 entitled ‘Equal income opportunities for women and men: closing the gender gap in pensions’;

5.  Emphasises that the subsidiarity principle must also be applied strictly in the area of pensions;

Assessment and awareness-raising for more effective action to address the pension gap

6.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to continue investigating the gender pension gap and to work together with Eurostat and the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) with a view to developing formal and reliable indicators of the gender pension gap, as well as identifying the various factors behind it in order to monitor it and set clear reduction targets, and to report to the European Parliament; calls on the Member States to provide Eurostat on an annual basis with statistics on the gender pay gap and gender pension gap, in order to make it possible to assess developments throughout the EU and means of addressing the matter;

7.  Calls on the Commission to carry out a thorough assessment of the impact on the most vulnerable groups, and on women in particular, of the country-specific recommendations (CSRs), as well as of the recommendations of the 2012 White Paper on Pensions, aimed at combating the causes of the gender pension gap, as well as to establish a formal indicator of the gender pension gap and to conduct systematic monitoring; calls for adequate evaluation and gender impact monitoring of the recommendations or measures taken to date; calls on the Commission to support the development of gender-disaggregated statistics and research with a view to enhancing the monitoring and evaluation of the effects of pension reforms on women’s prosperity and wellbeing;

8.  Calls on the Member States to promote action to close the gender gap in pensions through their social policies, to raise awareness among decision-makers in this area, and to develop programmes that will provide women with more information on the gap's implications for them, as well as with the tools they require with a view to devising sustainable pension funding strategies that are tailored to women’s specific needs, as well as on women’s access to second and third pillar pensions, particularly in feminised sectors where take-up may be low; calls on the Commission and the Member States to extend and further raise public awareness relating to equal pay and the pension gap, as well as to direct and indirect discrimination against women at work;

9.  Reiterates the need for clear harmonised definitions in order to facilitate comparison at EU level of terms such as ‘gender pay gap’ and ‘gender pension gap’;

10.  Calls for the Member States and the Union institutions to promote studies on the effects of the gender gap on the pensions and financial independence of women, taking account of issues such as the ageing population, gender differences in health conditions and life expectancy, how family structures have changed and the number of single-occupancy homes has risen, and differences in women’s personal situations; calls too for them to draw up possible strategies to put an end to the gender pension gap;

11.  Calls on the Member States immediately to disburse severance payments and end-of-service payments as soon as the period of pension entitlement begins, in order to prevent situations of economic difficulty, reduce subsequent burdens regarding advance payments on loans, and reduce women's dependence on men;

Reducing inequalities in terms of scope for paying pension contributions

12.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the EU legislation on indirect and direct gender discrimination is properly implemented and its progress systematically monitored, with infringement procedures initiated in case of non- compliance, and possibly revised in order to make sure that men and women are equally able to pay pension contributions;

13.  Condemns unequivocally gender pay disparities and their 'inexplicable' component resulting from discrimination at the workplace, and reiterates its call for Directive 2006/54/EC, which has been clearly and sufficiently transposed in only two Member States, to be revised to ensure more equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and pay, in application of the principle of equal pay for equal work between women and men, which has been guaranteed by the Treaty since the founding of the EEC;

14.  Urges Member States, employers and trade unions to draft and implement serviceable and specific job evaluation tools to help determine work of equal value and thus ensure that men and women receive equal pay and hence, in the future, equal pensions; encourages firms to carry out annual equal pay audits, to publish the data with the utmost transparency, and to narrow the gender pay gap;

15.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to tackle horizontal and vertical segregation on the labour market by eliminating gender inequalities and discrimination in employment and encouraging, in particular through education and by raising awareness among girls and women to take up studies, jobs and careers in innovative growth sectors which are currently dominated by men as a result of the persistence of stereotypes;

16.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to offer women greater incentives to work for longer and with shorter breaks, in order to increase their degree of economic independence today and in the future;

17.  Points to the importance, in a context in which the burden of responsibility for pensions is shifting from state pension systems to self-funded schemes, of ensuring that access to the financial services covered by Directive 2004/113/EC is non-discriminatory and based on unisex actuarial criteria; notes that application of the unisex rule will help reduce the gender pension gap; calls on the Member States and the Commission to increase transparency, access to information and certainty for members and beneficiaries of occupational pension schemes, taking into account the EU’s principles of non-discrimination and gender equality;

18.  Notes that occupational old age pensions schemes are increasingly run according to insurance principles, and that this might give rise to numerous gaps in terms of social protection(16); emphasises that the Court of Justice of the European Union has made it clear that occupational pension schemes are to be considered pay and that the principle of equal treatment therefore applies to those schemes as well;

19.  Calls on the Member States to pay special attention to migrant women, who often have not acquired pension rights in their country of origin and therefore lack economic independence, especially in case of divorce;

Reducing career-related gender inequalities

20.  Calls on the Commission swiftly to deliver on the commitments it gave under both the Roadmap and the Strategic Engagement, in order to enable all to strike a better work-life balance, including for working parents, and to present an ambitious and comprehensive package of legislative and non-legislative measures as part of its 2017 work programme;

21.  Urges Member States to comply with and enforce legislation on maternity rights so that women do not suffer disadvantages in terms of pensions because they have been mothers during their working lives;

22.  Calls on the Member States to consider employees being given the possibility to negotiate voluntary flexible working arrangements, including 'smart working', in line with national practice and independently of the age of the children or family situation, thus allowing women and men a better work-life balance, such that they do not have to favour one over the other when assuming care responsibilities;

23.  Encourages the Member States, on the basis of a pooling of best practice, to introduce, to the benefit of both women and men, 'care credits' to offset breaks from employment taken in order to provide informal care to family members and periods of formal care leaves, such as maternity, paternity and parental leave, and to count those credits towards pension entitlements fairly; considers that such credits should be awarded for a short, set period in order not to further entrench stereotypes and inequalities;

24.  Calls on the Member States to design strategies for recognising the importance of informal care performed for family members and other dependants and voluntary work and their fair sharing between women and men, the lack of which is a potential cause of career interruptions and precarious work for women, thus jeopardising their pension rights; in this context, stresses the importance of incentives for men to use their parental and paternity leave;

25.  Calls on the Member States to enable the transfer of the employee after the maternity or parental leave back to the same work arrangement;

26.  Points out that a proper work-life balance for men and women cannot be achieved unless local, high-quality, affordable and accessible care facilities for children, the elderly and dependants are available and without encouraging the equal sharing of responsibilities, costs and care; calls on the Member States to increase investment in services for children, emphasises the need for childcare facilities to be available throughout rural areas, and urges the Commission to support the Member States, including through the provision of available EU funding, in creating such facilities in a form that is accessible to all; calls on the Member States not only to meet the Barcelona targets at the earliest opportunity and no later than by 2020, but also to define similar targets for long-term care services, at the same time offering families that prefer a different childcare model the freedom to choose; congratulates those Member States which have already met the two sets of targets;

Impact of pension systems on the pension gap

27.  Calls on the Member States to assess, on the basis of accurate, comparable data, the impact that their pension systems are having on the pension gap and its underlying factors, in order to combat discrimination and create transparency in the pension systems of the Member States;

28.  Stresses that the sustainability of pension systems has to allow for the challenges posed by demographic changes, the ageing of the population, the birth rate, and the ratio between persons in gainful employment and those of pensionable age; recalls that the situation of the latter depends greatly on the number of years for which they have worked and paid contributions;

29.  Calls on the Member States, in order to ensure sustainable social security in view of the rising life expectancy in the EU, urgently to carry out necessary structural changes to the pension systems;

30.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to take a closer look at how the pension gap might be affected by a shift from statutory state pensions towards more flexible arrangements in occupational and private schemes for pension contributions, with regard to the calculation of the duration of contribution to the pension system and to arrangements for gradual retirement;

31.  Points out that the transition to a multi-pillar pension system is causing further gender inequalities as regards pensions(17); insists that the first of the three pension pillars must remain at the centre of Member States’ pension systems, and must be promoted and enabled with a view to helping eliminate pension inequalities, particularly where gender-based; insists as well that private pension schemes should remain a voluntary option; points out that the gender gap for pensions is smallest in the first pillar and that schemes under this pillar have proven to be the most inclusive, the most fair in redistribution terms, and even the most cost-efficient means of combating old-age poverty; calls on the Commission and the Member States to strengthen public pension systems over other types of scheme that could aggravate the gender gap in pensions;

32.  Calls on the Member States to remove the elements of their pension systems, and of the reforms implemented, that add to imbalances in pensions (especially gender imbalances such as the existing pension gap), taking into account the gender impact of any future pension reforms, as well as to implement measures to eradicate this discrimination; stresses that any policy changes related to pensions should be measured against their impact on the gender gap, with specific analysis comparing the impact of the proposed changes on women and men, and that this should be a feature of the planning, design, implementation and evaluation processes of public policy;

33.  Calls on the Commission to promote the pooling of best practice with a view to identifying both the corrective measures that are most effective and those that can tackle the factors contributing to the pension gap;

34.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce unisex life tariffs in pension schemes and care credits, as well as for derived benefits, so that women can receive equal pension annuities for equal contributions, even if they are expected to live longer than men, and to ensure that female life expectancy is not raised as a pretext for discrimination, more particularly for the calculation of pensions;

35.  Highlights the important role played by survivor’s pensions in protecting and safeguarding many older women from the higher risk of poverty and social exclusion they face compared to older men; calls on the Member States to reform, where necessary, their systems for survivor’s pensions and widow’s pensions in order not to penalise unmarried women; calls on the Member States, supported by the Commission, to study the effects of different systems providing survivor’s pensions in light of the high rates of divorce, the incidence of poverty among non-married couples and the social exclusion of older women, and to consider providing for legal instruments to ensure shared pension rights in divorce cases;

36.  Highlights the fact that all people have the right to a universally accessible public pension, and recalls that Article 25 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrines the rights of the elderly to lead a life of dignity and independence, and that Article 34 of the Charter recognises the entitlement to social security benefits and social services that ensure protection in the event of maternity, illness, industrial accident, disability, dependency on long-term care, old age, or loss of employment; points to the importance of public social security systems funded by contributions as an important component of adequate pension provision;

37.  Recalls that a decent retirement income is essential to fighting poverty among the elderly; calls on the Member States to ensure that part-time workers, workers facing job discontinuity, assisting spouses and workers with career gaps or with periods where fewer hours were worked have the right to access a decent pension scheme without any form of discrimination;

38.  Asks the Member States to eliminate obstacles to access to an adequate pension – such as the increase in the minimum contributory years necessary to be eligible for pension entitlements, or the linking of pension benefits to lifetime contributions – that stand in the way for people with interrupted careers (most of whom are women);

39.  Calls on the Member States to provide, when conditions for statutory retirement pension are not met, an adequate public minimum pension that is independent of the recipient’s previous working life, and to ensure that periods of formal leave taken by individuals in order to care for family members are counted when those persons’ pension entitlements are calculated; stresses the importance of shifting towards individual, rather than derived, pension entitlements and social benefits in order to avoid situations of dependency within the family; urges the Member States to replace household unit models and corresponding social security rights so as to ensure individual rights, and to counter dependency status through a partner or through the state; points out, however, that the ratio between the public minimum pension and the average pension arising from working life must be appropriate; Calls on the Commission to carry out a substantive analysis of best practice with a view to assisting Member States in the calculation of such minimum pensions;

40.  Is highly concerned that freezes and cuts in pensions in some Member States are affecting people with shorter or interrupted careers, or those with lower wages, the hardest; deplores the fact that it is most often women who are affected; stresses that these measures have led to indirect discrimination in the enjoyment of social security entitlements; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that both men and women have the chance to achieve full contribution periods, and likewise to ensure everyone’s right to a full pension, with a view to closing the pension gap by fighting gender discrimination in employment, adjusting education and career planning, improving work-life balance and enhancing investment in childcare and care of the elderly; considers that establishing sound regulations on health and safety in the workplace that take account of gendered occupational as well as psychosocial risks, investing in public employment services that are able to guide women of all ages in search of employment, and introducing flexible rules for transitioning from work into retirement is also relevant;

41.  Points out that in its General Comment No 16 (2005) on the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights set out the requirements of Article 3 in relation to Article 9 of the ICESCR, including the requirement of equalising the compulsory retirement age for both men and women and of ensuring that women benefit equally under public and private pension schemes;

42.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1)

11 August 2005, E/C.12/2005

(2)

4 February 2008, E/C.12/GC/19

(3)

XX-3/def/GRC/4/1/EN

(4)

OJ L 6, 10.1.1979, p. 24

(5)

OJ L 303, 2.12.2000, p. 16.

(6)

OJ L 373, 21.12.2004, p. 37.

(7)

OJ L 204, 26.7.2006, p. 23.

(8)

OJ C 51 E, 22.2.2013, p. 9.

(9)

OJ C 131 E, 8.5.2013, p. 60.

(10)

OJ C 264 E, 13.9.2013, p. 75.

(11)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0073.

(12)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0050.

(13)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0218.

(14)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0351.

(15)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0338.

(16)

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/conference_sept_2011/dgjustice_oldagepensionspublication3march2011_en.pdf.

(17)

European Parliament, Policy Department C, Citizen’s Rights and Constitutional Affairs (Ludovici: 2016): ‘The gender pension gap: differences between mothers and women without children’, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/supporting-analyses.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The gender gap in pensions (GGP) is one of the many manifestations of inequality between men and women. In 2012 the GGP – the gap between the average pre-tax income received as a pension by women and that received by men – stood at 38% in the 65 and over age group, which is unacceptable.

What is needed is action not only to ensure genuine gender equality but also to guard against poverty and vulnerability, from which women with small pensions are the most likely to suffer.

Your rapporteur therefore believes that, as the GGP is influenced by a wide range of variables, a comprehensive, far-reaching strategy is required in order to address it. Although, as things stand, the influence of those variables is not directly quantifiable owing to a lack of accurate, reliable data, it may reasonably be asserted that the GGP is a reflection of the many inequalities women experience throughout their private and working lives.

There continues to be a gender pay gap in the EU. The principal causes of that gap, which stood at 16.3% in 2014, are discrimination, segregation and career breaks. The social, marital and/or family status of women pensioners also has an influence on the GGP, with widows being the worst off in this respect. What is more, there is a positive correlation between the GGP and the number of children brought up: women who play a leading role in the upbringing of children inside a household are obliged to take repeated career breaks and, in many cases, to work on a part-time basis. By way of an example, women whose careers spanned a period of less than 14 years are subject to a GGP that is twice as high (at 64%) as that faced by women with longer careers (32%). All of these factors drive down women’s pensions and must therefore be addressed.

Your rapporteur accordingly makes a number of recommendations that need to be acted on in manner that is in keeping with the division of competences between the Union and its Member States in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. More generally, she would encourage Member States to cooperate and pool best practice in this area.

Assessment and awareness raising for more effective action to address the GGP

First and foremost, we need to develop statistical tools to determine the factors behind the development of the GGP. A real effort needs to be made to gain the clearest possible picture of exactly how the gap is formed. Those tools will give stakeholders such as, in particular, the Commission, a better understanding of the issue and allow Member States to take account of the findings in their social policies and raise awareness among decision-makers in this area.

Reducing inequalities in terms of ability to make pension contributions

The first focus of action should be women’s ability to make pension contributions. Given that most pension systems revolve around earnings-based entitlements accumulated over the course of a person’s career, pay inequalities must be said to have an impact on pension income.

In this connection, your rapporteur would point out that there is already a substantial body of law governing such matters and that efforts need to be made to ensure that it is properly implemented by identifying any shortcomings in the implementing provisions and making any changes found to be necessary.

Reducing career-related gender inequalities

Steps also need to be taken to ensure that women’s careers are less affected by difficulties arising as a result of having to take on a disproportionate share of housework and family responsibilities.

Accordingly, in line with Parliament’s resolution of 13 September 2016 on creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance, your rapporteur calls on the Commission to deliver on its commitments under the Roadmap and the Strategic Engagement.

Impact of pension systems on the GGP

Your rapporteur would also encourage Member States to look into the repercussions of the way in which their pension systems are organised and to introduce, in particular for the benefit of the most vulnerable groups, measures to address inequalities that could result in pension disparities.

Lastly, your rapporteur calls on the Commission to look into how the GGP might be affected by a shift in pension systems towards more flexible arrangements for pension contributions and the establishment of pension entitlements and payments, with regard to the calculation of the duration of contribution to the pension system and to arrangements for gradual retirement.


MINORITY OPINION

pursuant to rule 52a(4) of the Rules of Procedure

Beatrix von Storch

This report represents a further stage in the EU’s efforts to shape social values and standards and to interfere in fundamental matters of family life. It is continuing those efforts even though it has no competence in the area of national pension policy, as the recitals indeed make clear.

This is nothing more than a further example of parliamentary shadow boxing. There are no reliable indicators which point to the existence of a ‘gender gap in pensions’. The report makes that clear too.

The EU is denying mothers and fathers the freedom to choose. Its sole aim is to meet the Barcelona objectives for the development of State childcare facilities. The EU is deliberately denying families who prefer a different child-rearing model the freedom to choose.

The family is recognised as a source of social cohesion and a cornerstone of society. Yet women and mothers, and men and fathers, receive no recognition for their work in raising and caring for their children and thus safeguarding the future of society.

The real scandal lies not in a supposed pay gap or a ‘gender gap in pensions’, but in the failure to recognise the housework, child rearing, care and family work carried out by both women and men and the lack of opportunities to reconcile, and choose freely between, family and working life, a problem which affects women and men equally. This matter must be dealt with by the social partners in the Member States.


OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (9.12.2016)

for the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

on the need for an EU strategy to end and prevent the Gender Pension Gap

(2016/2061(INI))

Rapporteur (*): Tania González Peñas

(*)  Associated committee – Rule 54 of the Rules of Procedure

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs calls on the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

–  having regard to Articles 22 and 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 16: The equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights (Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)), 11 August 2005, E/C.12/2005/, and UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 19: The right to social security (Article 9 of the ICESCR), 4 February 2008, E/C.12/GC/19,

–  having regard to Articles 4(2), 4(3), 12, 20 and 23 of the European Social Charter,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the European Committee of Social Rights of 5 December 2014,

–  having regard to Articles 2 and 3(3) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) enshrining the fundamental principle of equality between men and women,

–  having regard to Article 8 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Article 23 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrining the principle of equality between women and men,

–  having regard to Articles 151 and 153 TFEU,

–  having regard to the conclusions adopted by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) in June 2015 entitled ‘Equal income opportunities for women and men: Closing the gender gap in pensions’,

–  having regard to Article 34 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the European Pact for gender equality (2011-2020) adopted by the Council on 7 March 2011,

–  having regard to the ‘Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019’, and in particular objective 3.2 thereof,

–  having regard to its study ‘The gender pension gap: differences between mothers and women without children’ (2016) and the Commission study ‘The Gender Gap in Pensions in the EU’ (2013),

–  having regard to Articles 3 and 9 of the ICESCR,

A.  whereas the gender pension gap in the EU was estimated at around 39 % in 2014, with significant variations among the Member States, ranging from 3.7 % in Estonia to 48.8 % in Cyprus; whereas the percentage of older women at risk of poverty and social exclusion stood at 20.2 % in 2014, compared with 14.6 % of men, and by 2050 the proportion of people over 75 at risk of poverty could reach 30 % in most Member States; whereas in 2015, women on average still earned 16 % less per hour than men for the same work; whereas the gender pay gap often leads to women receiving lower pensions than men and makes women more likely to fall into poverty after retirement; whereas single-parent households are particularly vulnerable since they represent 10 % of all households with dependent children, and 50 % of those are at risk of poverty and social exclusion, double the rate for the population as a whole;

B.  whereas the percentage of the population receiving a pension varies widely between the Member States, standing at 11 % in Cyprus and 25 % in Belgium in 2012, whilst in countries such as Spain, Ireland and Malta, only 10 % or less of women receive a pension;

C.  whereas pension cuts and freezes increase the risk of poverty in old age, particularly among women; whereas the percentage of older women at risk of poverty and social exclusion stood at 20.2 % in 2014, compared with 14.6 % of men, and by 2050 the proportion of people over 75 at risk of poverty could reach 30 % in most Member States;

D.  whereas people over 65 have income worth around 94 % of the average for the population as a whole; whereas, nevertheless, around 22 % of women over 65 live below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold;

E.  whereas access to a decent pension currently depends on many different factors such as lifetime income, type of employment contract, temporary employment, labour market segregation, participation in and access to the labour market, care-related career breaks and life expectancy, and these factors affect women more negatively than men;

F.  whereas pensions linked to individual rather than to derived rights could help guarantee everyone’s economic independence, reduce disincentives to participation in formal work and minimise gender stereotypes;

G.  whereas pension credits for men and women as a form of allowance for caring for children or family members could help ensure that career breaks for reasons of care, training or unemployment do not have a negative impact on pensions, and it would be desirable for such schemes to be extended to or stepped up in all the Member States;

H.  whereas pension credits applying to all forms of work could help all workers from paid employees to the self-employed;

I.  whereas universal, residence-based or flat-rate minimum pensions indexed to wages appear to be particularly favourable to gender equality, because the full basic pension is paid irrespective of the previous employment status and family conditions;

J.  whereas many people with part-time contracts, essentially women (32 % against 8.2 % of men) may not have chosen such contracts, or have done so for reasons of combining work and family and care responsibilities, and in many cases this translates into a lower pension;

K.   whereas precarious employment and labour market segregation are obstacles that stand in the way of achieving the goal of equality and social solidarity in old age;

L.  whereas high unemployment rates have forced many families to rely on a single family income, in many cases the pension received by elderly people, generally the grandmothers, with three generations living on this single source of income;

M.  whereas policies designed to increase rates of high-quality employment among groups with the highest unemployment rates, such as women, young people, people with disabilities, people over 55, the long-term unemployed and immigrants, would help preserve the sustainability of the pension system and mitigate the dependency ratio in public systems;

N.  whereas growing individual responsibility for saving decisions entailing different risks also means that individuals have to be clearly informed of the options available and the associated risks; whereas the crisis has shown that private pension funds depend on the evolution of financial markets, in many cases jeopardising the pensions of older people, who are sometimes not well informed of the implications of subscribing to these funds; whereas both women and men, in particular women, have to be supported in improving their financial literacy level at no charge, in order to be able to make informed decisions on an increasingly complex issue;

O.  whereas no ex-ante or ex-post gender impact assessments were conducted for the reforms to pension systems laid out in the Commission’s white paper on pensions of 2012; whereas this is evidence of gaps in the EU’s policy of ensuring effective gender equality across the board;

P.  whereas trade unions and collective bargaining can play a vital role in ensuring the protection of the rights of older people;

Q.  whereas more investment in universal public health care, a public social services network and good-quality care infrastructure for dependent persons would help to ensure that people can exercise their right to live decently in their old age;

R.  whereas the European Social Charter states, in Article 4.1 on the right to fair remuneration, that with a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to a fair remuneration, ‘the Parties undertake to recognise the right of workers to a remuneration such as will give them and their families a decent standard of living’; whereas in its conclusions of 5 December 2014 the European Committee of Social Rights stated that ‘in order to ensure a decent standard of living within the meaning of Article 4§1 of the 1961 Charter, remuneration must be above the minimum threshold, set at 60% of the net average wage’;

S.  whereas the EU’s objective of achieving adequate social protection is enshrined in Article 151 of the TFEU; whereas the EU should therefore support Member States by making recommendations on improving protection for older people entitled to a pension by virtue of their age or personal situation;

T.  whereas the recent reforms to pension systems undertaken in the Member States have: increased the retirement age; reduced indexing levels for the updating of schemes; increased contributory aspects such as the duration and continuity of periods of contribution for the purposes of entitlement to benefits; promoted the role of private pension schemes; contributed to the widening of the gender gap in pensions;

U.  whereas the gender-specific employment gap, pay gap and associated pension gap, women’s overrepresentation in precarious work(1) and involuntary part-time work and interruptions in women’s careers to care for children or other dependants contribute to the situation whereby women are particularly affected or in risk of poverty;

V.  whereas the European Union primarily has a supporting competence in the field of pension schemes, particularly under Article 153 TFEU;

1.  Underlines that gender equality must be ensured in all areas; stresses that increasing the employment level of women is a key condition for eliminating the gender pension gap, which results from the accumulation of disadvantages experienced by women in the labour market throughout their lives; recognises also in this regard that key to preventing and mitigating the gender pension gap is women’s access to the labour market, with quality employment, supporting career progression, improved work/life balance for both men and women, and addressing gender segregation in education and employment; notes, further, that today more and better educated young women are entering the labour market;

2.  Draws attention to the important role played by the social partners in the discussion of issues relating to the minimum wage while respecting the subsidiarity principle; stresses the important role of trade unions and collective bargaining arrangements in order to ensure that older people have access to public pensions in line with the principles of solidarity between generations and gender equality; stresses the importance of taking due account of social partners when taking political decisions altering significant legal aspects of eligibility conditions for entitlement to pensions; calls on the EU and the Member States, in cooperation with the social partners and gender equality organisations, to set out and implement policies to close the gender pay gap; recommends that the Member States consider carrying out wage-mapping on a regular basis as a complement to these efforts;

3.  Regrets how the EU gender pension gap is at 39 %, which is more than double the gender pay gap of 16 %, reflecting the lifelong consequences and impacts of the inequality in the labour market on women’s rights as well as differences in career developments and caring responsibilities; recalls that, in accordance with Article 157 TFEU, ‘Member States shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or for work of equal value is applied’, and that the implementation and promotion of this principle is crucial to reducing pay and pension gaps between men and women and to eliminate the risk of poverty; calls on the Member States and the Commission to take steps to combat all forms of multiple discrimination on gender basis, to ensure application of the principle of non-discrimination and equality in the labour market and in access to employment, and, in particular, to adopt social protection measures to ensure that women’s pay and welfare entitlements, including pensions, are in line with the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or for work of equal value; calls on the Member States to establish appropriate measures to curb violations of the principle of equal pay for the same work and for work of equal value for women and men; takes the view that gender equality, by increasing social and economic well-being, benefits not only women but society as a whole;

4.  Regrets that in many Member States there is a lack of available, affordable and quality child care and long-term care, and that many women have to reduce their working time to care for children, persons with disabilities and other dependents; stresses the need to ensure that women and men are equal earners and equal carers by eliminating gender inequalities in paid and unpaid work, and to promote equal sharing of responsibilities, costs and care; points, in this respect, to the need for ensuring universal access to quality (social) services of general interest and for specific proposals making for better reconciliation of work and private life;

5.  Highlights the fact that the gender pension gap is a complex phenomenon, which goes beyond the structures of pension systems; stresses that the inadequate implementation of the Barcelona objectives on childcare facilities by the Member States seriously reduces opportunities for women to fully realise their employment potential and thus leads to pension inequalities; calls on the Commission and the Member States to implement the Barcelona targets by 2020, and to do so in an effective way, to endorse the 2014 quality framework on early childhood education and care and to act on the root causes of the gender pension gap by providing support that allows women to be active on the labour market, to increase the investment in affordable and accessible quality care for children, old people and dependents, and to include care periods in the calculation of social protection rights;

6.  Notes that pension policies shall be combined with adequate labour and active ageing policies to reduce gender pay and pension gaps; highlights, in this regard, the vulnerable position of women belonging to racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities; stresses the importance of the fight against gender stereotypes in employment; asks the Member States to implement fully Directive 2006/54/EC with a requirement for companies to draw up measures on gender equality in order to avoid discrimination in training and in the professional promotion of women, including actions on desegregation, the development of pay systems and measures to support women’s careers; calls on the Member States to implement the Commission’s recommendations on wage transparency, gender-neutral job descriptions and classification, and the reversal of the burden of proof when it comes to challenging gender discrimination in the workplace;

7.  Deplores the fact that people’s patterns of employment are becoming increasingly uneven and insecure as a result of temporary work, the greater prevalence of involuntary short-term contracts, marginal employment and unemployment; notes that women are more often financially disadvantaged than men, as they tend to have interrupted careers, and that women also struggle more often to build up sufficient contributions across both the private and public pension systems as a result of lower participation in the labour market, the pay gap, career breaks, prevalent part-time jobs, job segregation and atypical contracts, carrying out unpaid caring, and being excluded from the labour market for long periods over the course of their lives; stresses the importance of combating indirect discrimination in pension schemes, not only in occupational schemes, but also in the practices of statutory pension schemes; calls for a focus on the need to address the gender pay gap and job segregation in low-paid sectors; considers that raising wages in low-paid sectors where women are in the majority should be a recommended tool for achieving that goal; calls on the Member States to adopt measures to ensure pension coverage to atypical workers that is on par with that of other workers;

8.  Recalls that a decent retirement income is essential to fighting poverty among the elderly; stresses that the feminisation of poverty is the result of several factors, including the gender pay gap, the pension gap, care responsibilities and related breaks, as well as insufficient support and taxation systems affecting households headed by single mothers; calls on the Member States to ensure that part-time workers, workers facing job discontinuity, assisting spouses and workers with career gaps, or with periods where fewer hours were worked, have the right to access a decent pension scheme without any form of discrimination;

9.  Notes that occupational old-age pensions schemes are increasingly run according to insurance principles and this might give rise to many gaps in terms of social protection(2); emphasises that the Court of Justice of the European Union has made it clear that occupational pension schemes are to be considered pay and that the principle of equal treatment therefore applies to these schemes as well;

10.  Points out that the transition to a multi-pillar pension system is causing further gender inequalities as regards pensions(3); insists that the first of the three pension pillars must remain at the centre of Member States’ pension systems, and must be promoted and enabled with a view to helping eliminate pension inequalities, particularly gender-based ones; insists as well that the practice of private pension schemes should remain a voluntary option; points out that the gender gap for pensions is smallest in the first pillar and that schemes under the this pillar have proven to be the most inclusive, the most fair in re-distribution and even the most cost-efficient way of combating old-age poverty; calls on the Commission and the Member States to strengthen public pension systems over other schemes that could aggravate the gender gap in pensions;

11.  Highlights the fact that all people have the right to a universally accessible public pension, and recalls that Article 25 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrines the rights of the elderly to lead a life of dignity and independence, and that Article 34 recognises the entitlement to social security benefits and social services that ensure protection in the event of maternity, illness, industrial accident, disability, dependency on long-term care, old age, or loss of employment; points to the importance of public social security systems funded by contributions as an important component of adequate pension provision;

12.  Stresses that demographic change should not be advanced as a justification for the dismantling of social entitlements and benefits;

13.  Highlights the important role played by survivor’ pensions in protecting and safeguarding many older women from the higher risk of poverty and social exclusion they face compared to older men; calls on the Member States to reform, where necessary, their systems for survivors’ pensions and widow’s pensions in order not to penalise unmarried women; calls on the Member States, supported by the Commission, to study the effects of different systems providing survivor’s pensions in light of the high rates of divorce, the incidence of non-married couples on poverty and the social exclusion of older women, and to consider providing for legal instruments to ensure shared pension rights in divorce cases;

14.  Reiterates its call on the Member States to consider introducing or, where appropriate, reinforcing, through labour and social security legislation, care credits for both women and men as equivalent periods when these persons’ pension entitlements are calculated for the purpose of building up pension rights, in order to protect those taking a break from employment to provide informal care to a dependant or a family member, whatever the family and/or marital status; recalls the call on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for carers’ leave directive that offers carers adequate remuneration and social protection, and to put forward good practices for designing pension credit systems in all Member States with a view to modernising and expanding this instrument across the EU, thus helping reduce the pension gap between men and women;

15.  Calls on the Member States to provide, when conditions for statutory retirement pension are not met, an adequate public minimum pension that is independent of the recipient’s previous working life, and to ensure that formal leaves taken by individuals in order to care for family members are counted when these persons’ pension entitlements are calculated; stresses the importance of shifting towards individual, rather than derived, pension entitlements and social benefits in order to avoid situations of dependency within the family; urges the Member States to replace household unit models and corresponding social security rights, so as to ensure individual rights, and to counter dependency status through a partner or through the state; points out, however, that the ratio between the public minimum pension and the average pension arising from working life must be appropriate;

16.  Calls on the Commission to carry out a substantive analysis of the best practice to assist Member States in the calculation of such minimum pensions;

17.  Is highly concerned that freezes and cuts in pensions in some Member States are affecting people with shorter or interrupted careers, or those with lower wages, the hardest; deplores the fact that it is most often women who are affected; stresses that these measures have led to indirect discrimination in the enjoyment of social security entitlements; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that both men and women have the chance to reach full contribution periods, and likewise to ensure everyone’s right to a full pension, with a view of closing the pension gap by fighting gender discrimination in employment, adjusting education and career planning, improving work-life balance and enhancing investment in child- and eldercare; considers that establishing sound regulations on health and safety at the workplace that take account of gendered occupational as well as psycho-social risks, investing in public employment services that are able to guide women of all ages in search of employment, and introducing flexible rules for transitioning from work into retirement is also relevant;

18.  Takes the view that economic, employment and social policies need to be changed by strengthening investment and wage improvements in order to boost growth in socially useful, environmentally friendly and employment-generating activities, with a view to overcoming the economic and employment crisis;

19.  Points out that high unemployment rates, combined with the impact of the financial and economic crisis, have forced many families to rely on a single income, in many cases the pension received by older people; is convinced that a humane society must necessarily be based on the principle of solidarity between the generations; defines intergenerational justice as the equal distribution of benefits and burdens between the generations; considers that effective cooperation between generations is based on solidarity, and must be based on mutual respect, responsibility and a willingness to care for one another, without prejudice to the last and main responsibility which must be borne by the Member States;

20.  Emphasises that the subsidiarity principle must be applied strictly in the area of pensions as well;

21.  Calls on the Member States to increase investments in services for children; calls on the Member States to ensure that affordable, adequate and sufficient high-quality public services are set up; warns of the risks to gender equality represented by the shift from social security pensions to personal funded pensions, since personal pensions are based on individual contributions and do not compensate for times spent caring for children and other dependent relatives, or for periods of unemployment, sick leave or disability; points to the fact that pension system reforms that link welfare benefits to growth, and to the state of labour and financial markets, focus only on macroeconomic aspects and overlook the social purpose of pensions;

22.  Stresses that the sustainability of pension schemes can be reinforced by ensuring women equal access to all pension pillars; encourages, in this regard, the Member States to devise awareness-raising information campaigns to encourage and facilitate women’s access to second- and third pillar pensions, particularly in feminised sectors where take-up may be low;

23.  Insists that pension systems could be made sustainable if, as a matter of priority, social protection systems were to be strengthened and corporate tax fraud and evasion were fought without quarter;

24.  Stresses that the sustainability of pension systems has to allow for the challenges posed by demographic changes, population ageing, the birth rate and the ratio between persons in gainful employment and those of pensionable age, the situation of which depends greatly on the number of years in which they worked and paid contributions;

25.  Insists that differences in men’s and women’s average life expectancy can also lead, directly or indirectly, to disadvantaged situations in terms of benefits, especially where pensions are concerned; takes note of the common tendency to ask Member States gradually to raise the pensionable age, which does not allow for generational turnover or a work-life balance, especially since low-paid jobs are more often done by women; calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce unisex life tariffs in pension schemes and care credits, as well as for derived benefits, so that women can receive equal pension annuities for equal contributions, even if they are expected to live longer than men, and to ensure that female life expectancy is not raised as a pretext for discrimination, more particularly for the calculation of pensions; points out that the use of the sustainability factor that links pension trends to life expectancy and population ageing, which could increase the financial pressure on public social security systems, could be overcome by means of, among other things, an economic policy to promote development and employment, through new public investment, and better redistribution of income;

26.  Calls on the Member States, in order to ensure sustainable social security in view of the rising life expectancy in the EU, urgently to carry out necessary structural changes to the pension systems;

27.  Asks the Member States to eliminate obstacles to access to an adequate pension – such as the increase in the minimum contributory years necessary to be eligible for pension entitlements, or the linking of pension benefits to lifetime contributions – that stand in the way for people with interrupted careers (most of which are women);

28.  Urges the Commission, as a matter of urgency, to take steps to eliminate the factors preventing access to a decent pension, which essentially affect women, young people and immigrants;

29.  Points out that in its General Comment No 16 (2005) on the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights set out the requirements of Article 3 in relation to Article 9 of the ICESCR, including the requirement of equalising the compulsory retirement age for both men and women and of ensuring that women benefit equally under public and private pension schemes;

30.  Points out that the gender pension gap is a consequence of various factors, and calls on the Member States and the Commission to continue investigating this gap, and obtaining comparable data, with a view to designing better-informed policies; calls on the Commission and Member States to follow up on the Council conclusions of 18 June 2015 entitled ‘Equal income opportunities for women and men: closing the gender gap in pensions’, including the call for the inclusion of care periods in the calculation of social protection rights, investment in accessible and affordable care systems, and the development of indicators on the gender pension gap and to promote further research on its causes;

31.  Calls on the Member States to put in place respectful and poverty-preventing measures for workers whose health does not allow them to work until the legal retirement age; believes that early retirement arrangements should remain in place for workers exposed to arduous or hazardous working conditions; considers that raising employment rates through quality jobs could help to reduce considerably the future increase of people unable to work until the legal retirement age and, thereby, to alleviate the financial burden of ageing;

32.  Is deeply concerned by the impact of the austerity-driven Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) on pension schemes and on their sustainability and access to contribution-based pensions in a growing number of Member States, and by the negative effects the CSRs have on income levels and on social transfers needed to eradicate poverty and social exclusion;

33.  Calls on the Commission to carry out a thorough assessment of the impacts on the most vulnerable groups, and on women in particular, of the CSRs, as well as of the recommendations of the 2012 White Paper on Pensions, aimed at combating the causes of the gender pension gap, to establish a formal indicator of the gender pension gap and to conduct systematic monitoring; calls for adequate evaluation, and gender impact monitoring, of the recommendations or measures taken to date; calls on the Commission to include an indicator for the gender pension gap among the scoreboard indicators, and to support the development of gender-disaggregated statistics and research to enhance the monitoring and evaluation of the effects of pension reforms on women’s prosperity and well-being;

34  Calls on the Commission to widen its CSRs on the reform of Member States’ pension systems to include clear-cut recommendations on the need to implement measures related to women’s participation in the labour market, work-life balance, balance in terms of men’s and women’s roles in domestic tasks and the care of children and dependants, as well as recommendations on the design of public pension schemes, and on the regulation of private and occupational schemes, with a view to reducing gender pay and pension gaps;

35.  Calls on the Member States to compile more and improved data on gender-related imbalances with a view to understanding the problem better and, on that basis, developing appropriate solutions; calls on the Commission to help the Member States compile the data so as to ensure that they are comparable in an EU-wide context; calls on the Member States to remove the elements of their pension systems, and of the reforms implemented, that add to imbalances in pensions (especially gender imbalances such as the present pension gap), taking into account the gender impact of any future pension reforms, as well as to implement measures to eradicate this discrimination; stresses that any policy changes related to pensions should be measured against their impact on the gender gap, with specific analysis comparing the impact of the proposed changes on women and men, and that this should be a feature of the planning, design, implementation and evaluation processes of public policy;

36  Urges the Commission and the Member States to review maternity and paternity protection schemes, moving towards a system of parental leave at the choice of the couple, which would remove the exclusive burden of supporting children from one member of the couple, which has in most cases fallen on women; notes, however, that a scheme of this kind cannot replace exclusive leave for fathers and mothers, which should coexist;

37.  Stresses the importance of local and regional authorities in the field of social security and social services; calls on the Commission and the Member States to raise awareness of the overall pension gender gap issue amongst policy makers, businesses and civil society, and to provide further assistance in the form of tailored financial literacy, information and advice for both women and men, particularly women, to help them make the right investment decisions; notes that hitherto there has been little public discussion on the issue of the gender-related pensions gap; calls on the Commission and on the Member states to run information campaigns, and to constantly improve pension literacy among women and men; urges the Commission to develop and allocate the funding necessary to implement an EU strategy to eliminate and prevent the gender pension gap.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

8.12.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

26

21

5

Members present for the final vote

Laura Agea, Brando Benifei, Mara Bizzotto, Enrique Calvet Chambon, David Casa, Ole Christensen, Martina Dlabajová, Elena Gentile, Czesław Hoc, Agnes Jongerius, Rina Ronja Kari, Jan Keller, Ádám Kósa, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Jean Lambert, Patrick Le Hyaric, Jeroen Lenaers, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Javi López, Thomas Mann, Dominique Martin, Anthea McIntyre, Joëlle Mélin, João Pimenta Lopes, Georgi Pirinski, Marek Plura, Terry Reintke, Sofia Ribeiro, Maria João Rodrigues, Claude Rolin, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Romana Tomc, Yana Toom, Ulrike Trebesius, Marita Ulvskog, Renate Weber, Jana Žitňanská

Substitutes present for the final vote

Daniela Aiuto, Georges Bach, Deirdre Clune, Karima Delli, Tania González Peñas, Edouard Martin, Alex Mayer, Joachim Schuster, Tom Vandenkendelaere, Flavio Zanonato, Gabriele Zimmer

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

John Stuart Agnew, Adam Gierek, Hannu Takkula

(1)

European Parliament resolution of 19 October 2010 on precarious women workers (OJ C 70E, 8.3.2012, p. 1).

(2)

http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/files/conference_sept_2011/dgjustice_oldagepensionspublication3march2011_en.pdf.

(3)

European Parliament, Policy Department C, Citizen’s Rights and Constitutional Affairs (Ludovici: 2016): ‘The gender pension gap: differences between mothers and women without children’, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/supporting-analyses.


INFORMATION ON ADOPTION IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Date adopted

3.5.2017

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

17

5

13

Members present for the final vote

Malin Björk, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Arne Gericke, Anna Hedh, Filiz Hyusmenova, Florent Marcellesi, Angelika Mlinar, Angelika Niebler, Maria Noichl, Marijana Petir, Pina Picierno, João Pimenta Lopes, Terry Reintke, Liliana Rodrigues, Michaela Šojdrová, Ernest Urtasun, Beatrix von Storch, Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi, Jadwiga Wiśniewska, Anna Záborská, Jana Žitňanská

Substitutes present for the final vote

Biljana Borzan, Stefan Eck, Constance Le Grip, Edouard Martin, Clare Moody, Julie Ward

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Joëlle Bergeron, Angélique Delahaye, Marian Harkin, Maurice Ponga, Julia Reid, Sven Schulze, Sabine Verheyen, Lambert van Nistelrooij


FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

17

+

ALDE

Marian Harkin, Filiz Hyusmenova, Angelika Mlinar

ECR

Arne Gericke, Jadwiga Wiśniewska, Jana Žitňanská

EFDD

Joëlle Bergeron

PPE

Angélique Delahaye, Constance Le Grip, Angelika Niebler, Marijana Petir, Maurice Ponga, Sven Schulze, Michaela Šojdrová, Sabine Verheyen, Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi, Lambert van Nistelrooij

5

-

EFDD

Julia Reid, Beatrix von Storch

GUE/NGL

Malin Björk, Stefan Eck, João Pimenta Lopes

13

0

PPE

Anna Záborská

S&D

Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Biljana Borzan, Anna Hedh, Edouard Martin, Clare Moody, Maria Noichl, Pina Picierno, Liliana Rodrigues, Julie Ward

VERTS/ALE

Florent Marcellesi, Terry Reintke, Ernest Urtasun

Key to symbols:

+  :  in favour

-  :  against

0  :  abstention

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