Auto-enrolment gender gap increases 40%

Auto-enrolment gender gap increases 40%

The savings gap between women and men under auto-enrolment is increasing markedly, according to new research.

Master trust Now: Pensions analysed the savings of its 1.7m members in 2018 and found men had an average of £126 more in savings than women, at £559 versus £433.

This means the gap has grown by 40 per cent on the previous year's, when it was £90.

The average woman’s pot has fallen from 78.5 per cent the size of a man’s pot in 2017 to 77.4 per cent in 2018.

The analysis also showed that women – who made up 43 per cent of Now: Pensions customers – only owned 37 per cent of the total funds in monetary value. 

The provider’s research suggested that in 40 years’ time pension pots will have grown to £50,514 for men and £40,332 for women – assuming a 3 per cent investment growth. If a five-year career break is applied, this figure falls to £33,986 for women.

This is based on auto-enrolment minimum contributions and takes into account mean salaries for men and women over their working lives, Now: Pensions stated. 

Auto-enrolment minimum contributions will increase to 8 per cent in April, after increasing to 5 per cent in 2018.

According to Amy Mankelow, director of communications at Now: Pensions, the gender pay gap not only affects women’s working lives, but leaves them more vulnerable to poverty in retirement.

She said: "Women’s pension savings face a double whammy, as women typically earn less and are more likely to work part time and take career breaks to care for children or elderly relatives. 

"Auto-enrolment does little to address this inequality, as millions of women are prevented from saving altogether as they earn less than the £10,000 auto enrolment trigger.

"This means that a large proportion of part-time workers, who are much more likely to be women, don’t have the opportunity to save in the first place. 

"The fact that auto enrolment minimum contributions remove the first £6,136 of earnings from the auto enrolment calculation also hits the savings of more women than men."

The master trust is calling on the government to remove the £10,000 auto enrolment trigger and get rid of the lower earnings band now "to give more women the opportunity to save for their retirement".

These changes were announced by the government in its 2017 auto-enrolment review,  but tabled for the mid-2020s.

In December, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced that the minimum threshold for auto-enrolment would remain at £10,000 for 2019/20, which sparked criticism.

In the meantime, the government has explained that it intends to understand properly the impact of the 2018 and 2019 increases in minimum contribution rates before committing to a timetable for these changes.

By March 31, employers with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gap data for the second time as part of a mandatory requirement which came into effect in 2017.