SIPTU representatives have reiterated their call for a major overhaul of the State pension system to end discrimination against workers who have breaks in their careers, mainly women, ahead of a Dáil debate on the issue this evening (Wednesday, 19th October). SIPTU Researcher, Marie Sherlock, said: “Since 2012, changes to the system of entitlement for the contributory state pension have meant that workers with less than full service were unfairly penalised when they came of pension age. At the time, SIPTU campaigned against these grossly unfair changes that discriminated in the main against women who took time out of work to take up caring duties. Seasonal workers and those employed for a share of the year such as those directly employed by schools were also badly affected by the move. “Until 2012, workers with an average of 48 or more yearly contributions received the maximum contributory state pension, while those contributing between 20 and 47 credits yearly received €4.50 less. Now those with an average of 20 to 29 contributions yearly receive €34.70 less and those with contributions averaging 30-39 get €23.60 less per week. “The cruel irony is that those who entered the labour force, then exited and then came back in are potentially more severely punished now because of the so called “averaging” rule, compared with those who entered the labour force and then left. In particular, anyone who left the labour force between 1979 and 1994, when the Homemaker’s scheme was introduced, are most affected.” She added: “This call to reform the State’s pension system touches on a wider problem of insufficient pension coverage for the majority of women. Private sector employments with a large share of female workers and poor occupational pension coverage combined with breaks in paid employment has meant that women are much less well off in retirement compared with men.  Much attention is currently being given to the gender pay gap across countries. However, the gap in pension income between men and women is much worse. The European Commission estimated the gap to be 35.5% in 2013.”