June 23. 2024. 12:19

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Belgian pension reform should contribute to gender equality: study

The upcoming pension system reform in Belgium should help reduce the gender gap as the current one no longer meets the standards of gender equality and the diversity of family models, a study published by the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men on Wednesday reads.

The authors of the study, which was carried out by the Research Institute for Work and Society and the Centre for Sociological Research of the Catholic University of Leuven, point out that the pension received is the result of a complex combination of different factors such as the length of the employment period, income, marital status or individual characteristics.

In other words, gender-related income inequalities before retirement transpired into retirement and thus also affected pension income. Given that retirement starts after 45-50 years of work, past inequalities were also still visible in pension incomes today, the study added.

Regarding statutory pensions, there is a 20% gap between men and women, while the gap increases to 50% for the complementary pension, the study adds.

Women’s pensions in Belgium were, on average, 26.2% lower than that of men in 2021 compared to an EU average of 27.1%, with much higher figures for its neighbours, such as France (30.1%), Germany (30%) or The Netherlands (38.1%).

In Belgium, “the current pension gap is, above all, an indicator of gender inequalities in the labour market,” explained Michel Pasteel, director of the Institute, in the press release.

The study also examines how efforts towards closing the gender pay gap and the number of working women being more likely to have higher education degrees and longer education compared to a few decades ago will close the pension gender gap in the future.

“However, this is not the case: professional orientation, shorter careers for women, the extent of female part-time work (42.5% of employed women) and gender-based discrimination or maternity in employment explain the persistence of the pension gap,” Pasteel added.

The authors of the study project that the pension gap between men and women will continue to narrow, being reduced to two-thirds of its current level by 2030 and a half by 2040. The projections also show that to reduce the pension gap further, the wage gap would have to be closed.

Additionally, the institute explains that proactive measures must be adopted to improve the situation of women in the labour market, such as greater wage transparency, the development of quality full-time or similar jobs, or better sharing of thematic leave within the household. As for pensions, the upcoming reform should help reduce the gap between men and women.

To achieve this, Pasteel argues that “better recognition should be given to part-time work in the calculation of pensions, greater protection should be given to the assimilation of periods of care leave, and there should be a move towards greater individualisation of rights.”

One of the measures announced by the current government for the upcoming reform aims to improve the minimum pension according to the flexible criterion for employees (mainly women) who have worked less to be able to look after their children.

(Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com)