The Prudential has reported that the gap between men and women's pensions has fallen. Perhaps surprisingly, the reason is not because women's wages have risen but rather that men's have fallen.
The gap between the two has fallen from being £7, 400 to £5, 750 over the last year. Men have around eighteen thousand pounds a year to live on, taking all pension income into account and women have just over twelve thousand.
Pension incomes in general have fallen due to the difficult economic conditions over the last few years. Low interest rates coupled with low returns on investments means there is less of a return on the money people have invested into their annuities. Pension incomes year on year have fallen. Less people than ever are contributing to private pension schemes despite the increased need to do so. It's these reasons that have forced the Government to ask employers to automatically enrol and make contributions to their employee's pensions from October this year.
Employers will have to register with the Pensions Regulator and have a duty to provide employees with certain information about pensions and the changes to be put in place. Employees need to understand how these changes will affect them and the impact of saving now. Once enrolled employees will have a choice as to whether or not to opt out of the scheme. However, even if they do opt out their employer will be under a duty to enrol them again after three years. These measures are all part of a concerted move towards getting people to save now.
Although the auto-enrolment of pensions is set to start in October there will be a phased introduction, with smaller companies having to make the changes later. The Department for Work and Pensions had said that the duty to auto enrol employees for smaller employers will not commence until 2015.
Taking men and women into account, the average pension now stands at £15,500, its lowest level for five years. Although the gap between men and women has fallen in order to further close that gap, women are advised to continue making contributions during any time off. During a career break, for example, employees often decide not to make contributions during this time but should be advised not to stop. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that more than a fifth of British pensioners are at risk of poverty and are among the poorest in Europe.