NWCI seeks retrospective justice on pensions

There is a whole cohort of women, including farming women, who will not qualify for a full state pension under the rules at present, according to Catherine Lane, women and local government officer with the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI).

Calling on the Government to introduce a universal state pension based on residency, she said that older women are very much disadvantaged as recent improvements where women could claim home caring years only affect those who got their pension after 2012.

Catherine Lane

“We have worked with a number of groups in Cork and Kerry and this issue is coming up for a lot of women. There is an older cohort of women that is very much disadvantaged.

One woman we came across in north Cork had very poor pension entitlements, yet she had worked alongside her husband on the farm, cared for her children and looked after her elderly parents.

Some older women who were forced to stop working by the marriage bar don’t qualify for a means-tested non-contributory state pension because of their husband’s assets, Catherine said.

“Men in general are the landowners and the figures in this country are low in terms of joint ownership. Farms are still mostly passed onto males,” said the NWCI spokeswoman.

According to the CSO’s farm structure survey 2016:

  • In 2016, 265,400 people worked on farms.
  • Of these, 51.7% (137,100) were the farm holders, 41.4% (109,800) were family members and the remainder were non-family workers (18,500).
  • Over 88% (121,100) of family farm holders were male.
  • Over a quarter (71,700) of those working on farms were female. However, less than one quarter (16,100) were holders of the farms on which they worked.

“It’s about independent access to your own money. That is really important for equality for women,” Catherine said.

“In the past, women spoke of where accountants had given advice that women working on farms should not be put on the books which would have allowed them to build up stamps and have a contributory pension. It’s still felt that the man will be looking after the woman which is not satisfactory,” she said.

“We are calling for retrospective justice for women, including farming women. A lot of women are working on farms, working seasonally or part-time and doing lots of jobs that may not be measured.”