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Unequal Ageing in Europe explores the gender pension gap across the 28 member states of the European Union, plus Iceland and Norway.



1. Women, Old Age, and Independence: Why Investigate Yet Another Gender Gap?

Ageing as a challenge for all societies has been known to exist for more than a generation; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) produced an authoritative study warning of population ageing in 1980 (OECD, 1981). Awareness of impending changes spread, first to the policy community, then to policymakers; it thus motivated a number of reforms through the world, adjusting institutions to cope with a changing reality.

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios

2. Concepts and Literature

This chapter is devoted to the definition of concepts, the construction of indicators, and the choice of data. The idea is to seek the simplest way to bridge the gap between the macro representation of ageing indicators and the micro experience of individuals, in this case to highlight differences between men and women. Given the decision to survey experience across countries, a further matter of importance is ensuring that the data used can be compared: that they have similar meaning and coverage. A further issue is that the data and the indicators must be able to feed into policy discussion by shedding light on social processes in a transparent manner.

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios

3. Gender Gaps in Pensions in Europe

This chapter describes aggregate pension gaps in Europe. Two questions are examined: first, who is a pensioner, a coverage gap; second, how different pensions are for the two genders for those who draw a pension. The latter is the key diagnostic used and is termed the “Pensioners gender gap in pensions.” An alternative concept, the “elderly gender gap in pensions” is defined over the entire population, that is, includes those with no pensions.

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios

4. The Gender Pension Gap in Europe: Toward Understanding Diversity

The previous chapter explored the aggregate behavior of the gender pension gap across the EU and over time. This chapter tries to examine how that gender pension gap varies according to characteristics of individuals, such as education, income, and marital status. The main object of our interest is the way the pension gender gap results from and reflects key characteristics of the population and their histories. Thus, the focus is on gaps in lifetime pensions in relation to factors explaining their gender dimension. Such are labor market qualifications and career and positions in the income distribution.

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios

5. Benchmarking the Analysis: Europe, Israel, and the United States

The treatment of pension gender gaps in the previous chapters has utilized the existence of comparable survey data to characterize pension gender gaps and their key features, using the European countries that participate in the EU SILC survey as a type of gender policy laboratory. It remains to see the extent to which the results derived are corroborated both by other kinds of data and in other advanced countries.

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios

6. Pension Systems and Pension Disparities

Different types of welfare states are important determinants of well-being and meeting needs, as they mediate and influence the socioeconomic positions in which individuals find themselves.

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios

7. His and Her Pensions: Intra-Household Imbalances in Old Age

According to a well-known argument in economics—the intrahousehold bargaining hypothesis first introduced by Manser and Brown (1980) and McElroy and Horney (1981)—the partner with the largest bargaining power has the largest say in decisions taken at the household level. Bargaining power crucially depends on the amount and adequacy of resources each partner could muster in case of separation. In old age, pension income is one such key resource. Empirical evidence, however, has not uniformly supported the idea that the partner commanding more monetary resources has the biggest say in household’s decision making.1 Yet the appeal that this line of reasoning continues to exercise is strong as it resonates with the deeply held notion that it matters for economic independence who “brings home the bacon.”

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios

8. Looking Ahead: Pension Reforms and Inequality in Old Age

Whereas gaps in pay and earnings between men and women—the gender pay gap in particular—are regularly followed, studied, and their amelioration is a policy target, its sequel that would be applied to an older population—the gender gap in pensions—was hardly ever mentioned until recently. Very little internationally comparable information exists, while the suspicion remains that gender imbalance could be worse in those countries where less is known about it. The estimates that exist for individual countries are sufficient to generate a sense of unease. They can also signal that information gaps could have important welfare implications, in the sense that important policy areas and initiatives are missed out through being unremarked. That issues of great importance for the independence of older women lack visibility could be interpreted by some as another example of that group of citizens being taken for granted.

Gianni Betti, Francesca Bettio, Thomas Georgiadis, Platon Tinios


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