State Pension  

Academics call on govt to rethink pensions communication

Academics call on govt to rethink pensions communication

Academics have called on the government to adapt pension policy and its communication after finding socioeconomically disadvantaged women were less likely to have known about the latest changes to the state pension age.

In an article published in the Cambridge University publication Ageing & Society, Daniel Holman and Liam Foster, from the University of Sheffield, and Moritz Hess, from the Institute of Gerontology at the Technical University of Dortmund, called for policy to be simplified and a rethink of the way policy is communicated by the government.

The paper outlined the degree to which 2.6 million women were affected by the recent change to the state pension age in the UK and found some groups of women were much less likely to know about the change than others, which had exacerbated pre-existing inequality.

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The 1995 Pensions Act increased women's state pension age from 60 to age 66 to bring it in line with men's. Any woman due to reach age 60 before 2010 kept her pension age. 

Women born after 6 April 1950 will see their state pension age rise gradually and those born after 6 April 1955 will have their state pension paid from age 66 just like men. 

The changes are deemed to have been communicated poorly and to have caused inequalities, leading to a number of campaign groups, such as Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) and Backto60, calling for the government to address the problems.

The academics agreed the late notice women received about the change to the state pension age likely exacerbated existing inequalities.

Based on analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, the lecturers said socioeconomically disadvantaged women were less likely to know about the change than those more advantaged.

In 2006/7, for example, 80 per cent of women with low levels of education knew about the upcoming change, compared with 92 per cent of women with high levels of education.

Those out of the labour market, ethnic minorities, and unmarried women were also less likely to be aware, they added.

The academics said those affected by this change should have been "directly told about it well in advance" and  their findings should have "a number of important policy implications".

They stated: "The inequalities we highlight problematise the idea that lack of knowledge of a policy change is just a matter of personal inefficacy.

"Firstly, governments should make a concerted effort to ensure that all citizens are informed of changes to the state pension age.

"This is especially important in relation to policies surrounding pensions because they are integral to and have wide ranging consequences for people’s quality of life, wellbeing, and financial security in older age.

"Secondly, the fact that inequalities are at least partly driven by disparities in numeracy and other cognitive abilities, suggests that it may be necessary to target and tailor awareness campaigns to particular demographics.

"Lastly, it is also apparent that the pensions system is still too complex and needs to be simplified. In order to try to ensure fair and equitable ageing for all, policy mechanisms that could exacerbate later life inequalities need to be carefully considered."