Gender Equality in Pensions: What Role for Rights Accrued as a Spouse or a Parent?

Quality of life of the over-60s in Europe: a gender perspective
By Carole Bonnet, Jean-Michel Hourriez, Paul Reeve


The asymmetry of men’s and women’s roles within couples leads to a large gender gap in individual pensions, which will persist despite both the rise in women’s labour market participation and redistribution in favour of women within the pension system. In the context of stable marriages, the pension system ensures a living standard for women that is equivalent on average to that of men through a single mechanism, that of the survivor’s pension. This will no longer be the case for future cohorts due to the growing instability of conjugal unions. Consequently, while specific redistribution from men to women within the pension system remains justified, a wider range of redistributive mechanisms must be developed, including survivor’s pensions to cover the risk of widowhood; rights accrued as a parent to make up for the impact of children on women’s careers; and finally pension splitting (a solution applied in Germany) to cover (at least in part) the risk of divorce. In a context of greater union instability and increased female labour market participation, a share of the large sums allocated to survivor’s pensions should be redeployed to strengthen rights accrued as a parent.


  • retirement pensions
  • gender equality
  • survivor’s pension
  • rights accrued as a parent
  • rights accrued as a spouse
  • living standard
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