Anyone know the correct answer here?

So, why lower pensions ages for women? My assumption – and please do correct if this is wrong – is that in Britain men have tended to marry women a few years younger than themselves. 3 to 5 years is about the historical average. Thus, when pensions were instituted, have different pension ages so that the average couple would retire roughly together.

15 thoughts on “Anyone know the correct answer here?”

  1. Between 1914 and 1918, 750000 British Service men lost their lives, and more than a million survivors were severely incapacitated. Yet this happened at a time when both social expectation and economic necessity required women to marry.

    True. And we can trace the effect of women’s suffrage as the newly enfranchised legions of lady voters decided to use their political power to obtain men’s wealth through the government rather than the institution of marriage.

    Marriage is basically a zombie institution at this point, having been rendered economically unnecessary by the welfare state, family courts and the Child Support Agency (or whatever they call it now).

  2. NB, Tim:

    However, the little thing that interests is, well, why were pensions ages different in the first place? Female lifespans have been longer ever since we started to have that state pension back in 1909

    The Old-Age Pensions Act 1908, best as I can tell, had the same qualifying age for men and women – 70 years old (at a time when life expectancy was 40 (!) for men and 43 for women).

    It wasn’t till women got the vote that serious campaigning began to lower the female retirement age.

  3. Unlikely to be the reason historically, because women were expected to leave work when they got married. Women who worked through to retirement would have been the unmarried ones.

  4. Yes – that was my understanding iirc. Both were then able to receive a pension together once the main wage earner retires rather than having a fall in income for a few years.

  5. Because most people were couples and the age difference meant they could retire together.

    For those who live a heterosexual couple, none of this matters. My wife’s list earnings were my loss too. For the gays and singles, it can be quite unfair.

  6. “at a time when life expectancy was 40 (!) for men and 43 for women”: nah, life expectancy at birth is entirely irrelevant to pensions. Life expectancy when you started paying for “stamps” would be more relevant.

    Presumably one of the links sys that the women’s age was reduced to 60 after The War.

  7. Dearieme – Yarp, but life expectancy at birth was the only quoted number in the MP’s briefing on the 1908 Act.

    The socialist unity website above gives a good summary of the changes that came through thanks to the National Spinsters Pensions Association, who were apparently one of the most influential lobbying groups I’d never heard of.

  8. Rob – the wimmins argument (and it’s not a bad one) is that they often ended up caring for geriatric relatives and employers didn’t want to hire postmenopausal women anyway.

    Plus, they alleged worse health for women, which might have been true in the days when it wasn’t uncommon to have 6 kids without the benefit of modern medicine.

  9. The reason for the difference in retirement ages was because husbands in 1948 were, on average, three years older than their wives and women’s pension was made 5 years lower so that >90% of women could retire at the same time as their husbands. Actually it was more so that more than 90% of those women claiming the old age pension on the basis of their husband’s contributions would be entitled to claim their pension when the guy retired so that the elderly couple did not have to live on a single man’s pension which would leave them in poverty defeating the object of the state pension scheme. [In 1948 very few women were entitled to a full pension based on their own contributions.]

  10. Ah, John77’s explanation makes sense – women claiming based on their husband’s contributions.

    As he said (and I said above), at the time this was brought in, married women were not expected to work, so married women being able to claim their own pensions (based on their own contributions) would have been pretty irrelevant.

  11. Speaking as a female, I have no complaint of the change, just the way it was done. I had already planned my retirement when they moved the goal-posts and would not be surprised if they do it again.

  12. @ Mary
    I can sympathise (our plans were changed when I was made redundant two months after our younger son was born so my wife has had to work for pay for 20-odd years) but the goal posts were moved in 1995,so you have had a bit more notice than I.

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