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Women plunged into poverty through no fault of their own.

Byline: Abby Bolter

IT'S amazing to me how, in the era of #MeToo and the "Time's Up" campaign, huge gender inequality is still happening right under our noses and is largely going unrecognised.

There is currently a group of older people being plunged into poverty, forced back into work where zero-hours and low-paid jobs await, or forced into remortgaging or selling their homes through no fault of their own.

The only reason for it is because they are women.

And despite the popularity, rightly so, of campaigns for gender equality, their calls for fairness have not been met with Government action.

It all stems back to 1995 when, in the name of equality, the Conservative government increased the women's state pension age from 60 to 65 to match men's.

Then in 2011 the coalition government accelerated the changes. The trouble was, no-one told the women it would affect.

So when they started turning 60 and expected to receive their state pension, they were informed they'd have to wait a further two, three, four, five or six years, depending on their date of birth.

Waspi, the group campaigning for the rights of those affected, does not want to turn back the clock on state pension age equalisation.

But, for those adversely affected, they have urged the Government to bring in a transitional or bridging pension arrangement to help them manage financially.

They have not been successful. One of the reasons put forward by the Government at a House of Commons debate in December is that a transitional arrangement would potentially increase inequality between men and women and cost the public purse PS77bn.

So it sounds to me that the Government is saying it's OK for women to be disadvantaged but not men.

The Government has also said that as women are living longer, this cohort will still receive more state pension in their lifetime.

That's great, if they live that long. But what about the women who are now turning to food banks? And we must also remember that this injustice - created in the name of equality - is being visited on women who have known it all their lives.

Being born in the 1950s they generally started work in the 1970s before maternity leave and maternity pay was commonplace.

It was first introduced in 1975 under the Employment Protection Act and then extended by the Employment Act 1980, but long qualifying periods meant only half of women qualified.

It wasn't extended to all women until 1993.

So, quite rightly, they feel they have been shafted at both the beginning and end of their working lives.

Of the women who worked, they were told that if they paid their National Insurance contributions they would get their pension at 60. Another broken promise.

This injustice in the name - is being on women have their But at least some of these women have a works pension to fall back on. For those women who worked part-time or dedicated their lives to taking care of their family, the situation is even worse.

For those who have been widowed, it can be dire.

And, once they find themselves in this situation, none of the options are pleasant.

They either eat away at what little savings they may have or, if that isn't an option, they have to find work.

But Waspi points out that the world of work isn't exactly geared up for women in their 60s.

Those who can't find jobs have to claim jobseekers' allowance.

- created of equality visited who known it all lives If they can find work, it is highly likely it will be low paid and insecure.

Women are also being forced to take jobs that are inappropriate given their state of health. I'm not saying they have nothing to contribute to the world of work should that be what they wish to do.

But this is a huge injustice to those who have saved and planned for their retirement.

The rug has been pulled out from under their feet without so much as an apology.

And yet there has been no public outcry from society at large. Why is this? Would the reaction be totally different if it were men and not women in this position? It's hard to say. But what we know for sure is that women are suffering, for no other reason than that they were born female in the 1950s.

their is of likely and Women This injustice - created in the name of equality - is being visited on women who have known it all their lives

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Waspi's south east Wales branch marched through Cardiff city centre on International Women's Day
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 16, 2018
Words:776
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