Pension Gender Gap Persists Despite Surge in Saving

Average male pension pot is £25,300 compared with £20,000 for women as pension wealth doubles in two years

Annalisa Esposito 5 December, 2019 | 3:53PM
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UK pension wealth has almost doubled in just two years, but women are still falling behind when it comes to saving for retirement.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Wealth and Assets survey shows that total private pension wealth soared from £3.6 trillion in April 2016 to March 2018. But a persistent gender gap still prevails, with men's pension wealth almost double that of women. 

“Scratch below the surface and you will see there is still much work to do to address the yawning chasm of gender inequality” says Helen Morrissey, pension specialist at Royal London.

Some 56% of men below state pension age are actively saving into a pension, the survey shows, compared with 51% of women. Meanwhile the average male pension pot is £25,300 compared with £20,000 for women. Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director for Fidelity International says “this is particularly concerning when you take into account the fact that women are likely to need their savings to last for a longer period of time and may be subject to career gaps". 

Women face particular challenges in saving for retirement as they are more like to take career breaks to care for children or relatives and are more likely to work part-time. Morrissey says both the industry and government need to look at ways to help women navigate these challenges and build a strong foundation for the future.

One of the most obvious way to boost a pension pot is to save a little extra each month. Fidelity research shows saving 1% more of your salary into a pension - equivalent to £6 based on average earnings - could mean you retire with £60,000 more than those who don't up their contirbutions. 

Government Must Do More

The introduction of auto-enrolment (where you are automatically enrolled into a workplace pension scheme) has been widely credited with boosting the state of the UK's pension savings. But Samantha Seaton, chief executive of Moneyhub, says “we shouldn’t be popping the champagne just yet.” Indeed, over the past 10 years, the proportion of adults below state pension age actively contributing to a pension has increased from 43% to 53%. But that still means almost half of working age adults not contributing. 

With a General Election just days away, Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, hopes pensions will be in the spotlight. He says: “Any future Government needs to focus on more pensions support for the self-employed and lower earners, who are both outside of auto-enrolment.”

Seaton agrees there is still much more to be done to boost retirement savings across the board. “Pensions are currently too complex,” she says, “and many people remain uncertain as to how much they need to save in order to afford a comfortable retirement.”

It is hoped the introduction of a Pensions Dashboard, where savers can see all of their pension savings in one place, could encourage those struggling to engage with saving for the long-term. 

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Annalisa Esposito  is a data journalist for

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