Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Rapporteur: Ms Anna Čurdová, Czech Republic, Socialist Group
A. Draft resolution
1. There is generally an appreciable difference between women’s and men’s pensions in Council of Europe member states. Many elderly women are poor because they have no pension or their pension is insufficient. Women have frequently played a role in raising children and caring for dependent persons, and these periods are not, or only partially, taken into account in calculating pensions. Furthermore, because, among other things, they face difficulties in gaining access to the labour market, are forced to accept part-time jobs and experience slow career advancement, women have, on average, lower personal incomes than men, which leads to small pensions.
2. The Parliamentary Assembly notes that traditional pension systems favour the linear career paths of men and are disconnected from the realities of present-day society. Furthermore, with the increase in the number of divorces, remarriages and single-parent families headed by mothers, the system of survivor’s pensions (paid to the surviving spouse) is becoming obsolete.
3. The Assembly calls for fair and equitable pensions offering every man and woman a reasonable standard of living. For the sake of social cohesion and human dignity, it is convinced of the need for measures to resolve the main problems responsible for the pension gap between women and men, on the one hand by eliminating the pay gap between women and men during their working lives and on the other by reforming pension schemes in order to eliminate inequalities.
4. The Assembly therefore urges the Council of Europe member states to apply as soon as possible its Resolution 1715 (2010) on “The wage gap between women and men” in order to end discrimination against women on the labour market, and calls on them in particular to ensure that:
4.1. the right to equal pay for equal work is written into their domestic legislation if this is not already the case;
4.2. employers are obliged to comply with this right and incur penalties if they fail to do so;
4.3. employees are able to initiate judicial proceedings to secure recognition of this right without any risk of losing their jobs.
5. The Assembly asks member states to revise their pension laws in order not only to prohibit discrimination between women and men but also to provide for positive discrimination in favour of women, by means of measures taking into account career breaks and women’s and men’s different career patterns:
5.1. by guaranteeing a personal pension entitlement and, as a transitional measure, to ensure a fair and equitable splitting of pension entitlements between couples on the breaking up of relationships;
5.2. by taking into account the principle of equality between women and men in pension reforms, emphasising in particular the importance of public pension systems which should be favourable to women, perform a redistributive function to help the lower paid and offer credits for caring for children and elderly persons;
5.3. by granting an adequate allowance for family responsibilities or for supporting dependent persons to individuals who play a role in raising children and caring for dependent persons;
5.4. by granting credits to cover certain periods in respect of which there is no pension entitlement (unemployment, parental leave, part-time work, etc);
5.5. by establishing adequately paid parental leave shared between both parents;
5.6. by providing affordable, good-quality services to look after children and dependent persons.
6. The Assembly asks member states to take measures, as part of their pension policy, to ensure greater solidarity between women and men when earned pension entitlement is insufficient, including positive measures to help elderly persons:
6.1. by providing for the systematic award to elderly persons of a pension or an overall income which should be at least equal to, or higher than, the national poverty threshold;
6.2. by considering the introduction of a mixed pension scheme under which any person usually residing in the national territory would benefit (following modalities fixed by the country), which would include a fixed part related to residence and a variable part in proportion to his/her income;
6.3. by establishing alternative or additional benefits, in cash or in kind, such as coverage of medical expenses or other expenses such as electricity or heating;
6.4. by ensuring that austerity plans and current pension reforms do not affect women in a discriminatory or disproportionate manner.
7. Lastly, it calls on member states to establish effective mechanisms to monitor the implementation of legislation and propose necessary improvements. In addition, it calls on member states to include a gender perspective in the reform and future evaluation of pension schemes, in particular by ensuring balanced participation of women and men in negotiation bodies.
B. Draft recommendation
1. Referring to its Resolution ... (2010) on “Decent pensions for women” and to the principle of equality between women and men in the implementation of social policies, the Parliamentary Assembly reiterates its commitment to eliminating the inequalities and discrimination suffered by women in both their private and their working lives and welcomes the fact that the Committee of Ministers is working to this end.
2. The Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to instruct its competent committee to:
2.1. compile gender-disaggregated data on old people’s pensions and income, analyse the problem of the income gap between elderly women and men and propose appropriate solutions;
2.2. assess the positive and negative effects of radical reforms of pension systems on women’s pensions, such as the conversion of public pension schemes into systems based on private savings.
3. It calls on the Committee of Ministers to raise awareness in the member states of issues relating to the viability of national pension systems and the gap between women’s and men’s pensions, both at political level and at the level of civil society.