Women's Lives: Donegal women, pensions and discrimination

When it comes to collecting the pension, women, especially those who are lone parents, are penalised.

Ann McGowan

Reporter:

Ann McGowan

Email:

editorial@donegaldemocrat.com

Women's Lives: Donegal women, pensions and discrimination

Recently we ran an article on ‘Women and Pensions.’ Women mainly rely on State pensions in their older years, but only 16 per cent of those receiving a full contributory pension are women.

Below Ann shares her experiences:

I’ve got a real bugbear at the moment. It’s to do with the way women, especially those who live on their own and are lone parents, are treated when it comes to receiving their pensions. I’m a lone parent and have been since I was separated in the '70s. I reared my children on my own since then and worked as much as I could, paying my taxes as I went.

Because my work for many years was intermittent (I worked in a hospital in the evenings, one week on and one week off) I lost out completely on stamps for the weeks I was off. When they calculated them when I applied for my pension, I discovered I hadn’t enough stamps from those 13 years to draw down my full contributory pension. I think this is very unfair.

There are other arguments also where women in public service had to leave work when they married years ago. Now, if on their own for whatever reason, they cannot claim on stamps they should have gained because of this.

There were also many women working in restaurants and bars for very low pay and never had stamps put on. If they complained they were told they could go, there were plenty to take their place. This was very common behaviour in these establishments.

Years ago women were not aware of the benefits of having stamps paid for them while they worked. Many more worked for years for unscrupulous employers in other areas, finding out too late there were no stamp paid for them. As above, if they complained they were sacked and some other innocent was employed in their place.

Women who are lone parents get a very raw deal when it comes to retirement. Being solely responsible for rearing their children, it is often impossible for them to work on a regular basis. Therefore if they don’t work regularly, they lose out on their stamps and do not qualify for the full contributory pension.

If a woman has three or four children of different ages and no reliable partner, the possibility of her holding down a full-time job is virtually impossible:

One – Because she can’t afford a babysitter on the low pay she’ll get.

Two - Available work will not fit in with schooling.

Three –There is very little work in our areas, except in the tourist season.

Four – It’s almost impossible to travel to work unless you have a car and someone to look after your children after school because you can’t get home until five or six o’clock in the evening.

In my fifties, when my children were reared, I went back to education and graduated from three universities. I don’t know how many other unaccredited courses I did, trying to educate myself. I got lucky and got permanent work for eleven years up until I retired, but even so, I’m not entitled to the full National Contributory Pension.

To put it bluntly, after rearing my four children on my own, working my butt off when possible, educating myself and my children and doing the best I could, NOW, in my retirement, I’m expected to live on peanuts.

When it comes to collecting the pension, women, especially those who are lone parents, are penalised. There is no consideration given to our circumstances and as far as I’m concerned this is discrimination against women and particularly against lone parents. I think it’s time our Government took this into consideration and did something to stop this discrimination.

Are you affected?

If so please join us next Monday, the 10th April, 10am – 2pm in Donegal Women's Centre, Port Road, Letterkenny for the first of three workshops.

The first workshop will be an opportunity to discuss the impact of pension inequality on older women and hear about your own experience. The second workshop will provide training in how to bring about change and who makes the decisions. You will hear from other older people who have been active in calling for change. The third meeting will share learnings and look at the next steps. The policy team will use the experiences of the women in our work for pension equality.

These workshops (Saturday 13th May, 10am to 4pm; Wednesday 14th June, 10am to 4pm) will be facilitated by the National Women’s Council of Ireland with the support of NCCWN- Donegal Women’s Network.

More information

For more information, registration and venue details for these workshops, please phone Eilís or Catherine on 01 679 0100, or email catherinel@nwci.ie

Light refreshments will be provided.