Nicola Sturgeon believes that higher state pension ages disadvantage Scots, who have a shorter life expectancy than those South of the border. Does this mean they believe men should receive their pension earlier than women?
We all know that for many decades men have received their state pension at the age of 65, whilst women, who have a significantly longer life expectancy, received it, until very recently, at 60. The pension ages are very slowly being equalised and by 2018, both men and women will retire at 65: this move was announced in 1995! Afterwards, state pension age for both men and women is set to rise together to 66 and ever upwards.
The assumption has always been that men and women’s state pension ages would then remain equal, despite the obvious fact that women’s greater life expectancy means they will receive their pension, on average, for several years longer than men. However, a surprise policy announcement this week by Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, throws that into doubt and suggests that, in their view, pension ages should be linked to life expectancy.
According to Ms Sturgeon, in the event of a hung parliament the SNP will refuse to support any rises in state pension age as this disadvantages Scots, who live, on average, around two years less than their English counterparts. Although the difference between men and women was not stated explicitly in this announcement, the gap in life expectancy between the two countries is significantly less than that between men and women throughout the UK. This must lead to speculation that SNP policy on fairness in state pension age will inevitably lead to moves to make women work two or more years longer than men in order to receive the same pension.
On the face of it, that is not unreasonable, as it means that the average man and the average woman will receive their pensions for around the same length of time. It remains to be seen, though, how women’s pressure groups will react to the possibility of this further step towards pension equality.