Farmers urged to join pension equality push

All farmers are being called on to join the push for pension equality for women by the IFA’s (Irish Farmers’ Association) Farm Family and Social Affairs Chairperson, Maura Canning.

Canning said that since changes to the yearly average contribution categories were introduced in 2012, the pension gap between women and men has widened.

“It is completely unacceptable that women are being discriminated against for taking time out from paid work to care for children and family members, particularly when in some instances they were forced to give up work under the marriage bar,” Canning said.

The IFA is calling on the government to address past injustices for women at or near pension age by:

  • Introducing a total contribution system for the purposes of calculating the level of contributory pensions;
  • Ensuring that the pension system recognises the important role women have played and continue to play in providing unpaid care.

“It is very saddening to meet women farmers who have worked all their life on the farm, caring for their children and older relatives and who are now facing their old age in poverty because the state still fails to recognise their work as unpaid carers,” Canning said.

The chairperson added that the IFA has been lobbying in recent years for changes in the pension system to remove discrimination against women farmers, and it is delighted to lend its support to the campaign by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) for Pension Equality for Women.

Canning asked all farmers to support the campaign and to contact their local public representatives to make them more aware of women’s pension issues. The NWCI has produced a new publication outlining the issues in relation to women’s pensions and offering advice on discussing these with public representatives.

“To honour its commitments in the recently published National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020, the government must – as a matter of urgency – assess how our pension policy impacts on women,” Canning said.

Orla O’Connor, Director of the NWCI, commented on the matter, stating: “Budget 2018 is a crucial opportunity to address the indirect discrimination against women in the pension system, as well as ensuring pension policy in Ireland is based on the modern lives of women and men.

A longstanding issue for women accessing pensions is that the Homemaker’s Scheme only applies retrospectively to 1994, leaving many women who were forced out of work by the marriage bar with insufficient and unfair pension entitlements.

“It is critical that the government immediately backdate the Homemaker’s Scheme to 1973 and, as promised seven years ago, replace the Homemakers’ Disregard with credits,” O’Connor concluded.

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