Private pensions risk bigger gender pension gap

The gender pension gap could be getting wider due to the increasing importance of private (complementary) pension schemes, and their failure to credit women for periods of maternity and parental leave (or other types of care leave).

The difference in pension payments for men and women across the EU is 40%, according to the most recent study which was carried out four years ago (in 2013).

A survey of 44 trade unions in 29 countries published today by the European Trade Union Confederation shows that

  • Most state pension schemes in Europe credit women for periods of absence from work for child or other care (29 such state schemes were identified), but private schemes do so in only eight countries. (see list below)
  • Private pensions are of growing importance in pension earnings according to 25 out of 42 trade unions.

A number of trade unions are taking action to improve private pension schemes for women, but this issue still needs to be taken up more widely by trade unions and others, including employers, pension companies and governments. 

The gender pension gap is even bigger than the scandalous gender pay gap,” said Montserrat Mir, ETUC Confederal Secretary. “The two are interlinked, as the pay gap contributes to the pension gap, above all in countries where pensions are earnings-related. It’s a vicious circle, made even worse by the increasing importance of private occupational pension schemes.  

Employers should contribute to the pension schemes of women workers who are on maternity, parental or other types of carers’ leave.

Closing the gender pay gap remains essential, not only for the income of working women, but also to improve women’s pensions.”


Background information

Countries where private pension schemes do credit women during periods of absence for caring: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK.

Countries where pensions are earnings-related include Germany, France and Italy.

Countries where trade unions have taken action on credits for maternity and other care-related leave for women (in private and/or public schemes) include Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland.    

Link to survey: 




Press release