Gender Gap in Retirement

In this week’s reading, Lorber says that “men earn more than women in jobs where men are the majority, in jobs where women are the majority, and in gender-neutral jobs.” Wage gape can’t be ignored in workplace. There is a figure most people are familiar with: on average, women earn only 79 percent of what men earn when comparing full-time year round workers. Inequality wage has significant influence when it comes to retirement. A report released on March 1, 2016 by the National Institute on Retirement Security finds that for women age 65 and older, their typical income is 25 percent lower than men. As men and women age, men’s income advantage widens to 44 percent by age 80 and older. Consequently, women were 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older, while women age 75 to 79 were three times more likely to fall below the poverty level as compared to their males’ counterparts.

The reasons of this gap mainly are that women earn less than men and they typically take time out of their careers for caregiving – both of which reduce women’s ability to prepare for retirement. What’s more, women often have longer life expectancies, greater health-care costs, and they are less likely to have access to an employer sponsored retirement plan.

As a result, more women are spending their retirement years working. Labor force participation among women ages 55 to 64 hit 61% in 2010, up from 53% in 2000. That should be a plus over time, as women build greater Social Security credits, savings, and pension benefits.

Meanwhile, there are other measures have been taken to deal with this issue. For example, the retirement plan coverage gap has narrowed. 46% of women joined in a workplace retirement plan in 2012 with the same rate as men. And Vanguard reports significantly higher deferral rates for women than men among participants in workplace plans that it administers.

Besides, Social Security claiming ages are rising. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has reported that average retirement ages (for men and women) have risen about two years over the past 25 years. In 2010, 11% more women were waiting to claim Social Security at their full retirement age than in 1985; 9% were claiming at age 70 or higher. That’s good news for middle- and lower-income women: In households with incomes less than $80,000, older women depend on Social Security benefits for a majority of their income, the NIRS reported.

However, the most important thing is to make clear that wage inequality in the workplace, marital status, child care arrangements and life expectancy together contribute to the gender gap in retirement. So, it is possible to prevent this gap for women still working. We should make workplace practices and Social Security benefits more inclusive. For workplace practices, companies need provide child care services, longer maternity leaves, flexible hours and equal pay, these services would make it easier on mothers who stay in the workforce. This can also give women more time to devote to their career and earn more for retirement savings. For Social Security, people get qualification should based on need, rather than marital status or lifetime earnings, which will help retired women with low lifetime earnings and no additional benefits.


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