Later life prospects for women much worse than for men, report warns
A new report that lays bare inequalities across the country shows that older women can expect to be financially worse off in later life and have poorer health than men.
Disability free life expectancy for women has begun reversing and women are in a worse financial position due to lower wages, caring responsibilities and part-time employment, the data shows.
Older women in England can expect to be financially worse off in later life and have poorer health than men according to new analysis by the Centre for Ageing Better.
The report, ‘The State of Ageing in 2020', examines ageing in a number of key areas, such as health and work, and lays bare the stark inequalities that exist across England. It reveals that health and wealth inequalities between men and women are at their highest amongst people in their 50s, with the gender pay gap largest for this age group.
The data also shows that while ‘disability free life expectancy’ has stalled among men, it is actually reversing for women who are spending increasing periods of their life in poor health and with disabilities. A girl born today can expect to spend a quarter of her life with a disability or long-term condition, compared to 21% for a boy. And conditions of the musculoskeletal system, such as arthritis, joint replacements and backpain, are more common in women than men at every age. There are also stark inequalities along wealth divides, meaning that women from poorer backgrounds will fare even worse.
The report found that the number of people in mid- and later life who live alone has risen over the last 20 years by 1.6 million, with almost half of all women aged 70 and over in the North East (46%) and London (44%) living alone.
The report also reveals that while the employment rate of women aged 50-64 has risen substantially since 2000, from 53% to 68%, it still falls far short of men, whose employment rate increased from 69% to 77% in the same period.
Women are three times more likely be working part-time, with a key reason being that they are more likely to be carers - one in three women aged 55-64 reporting being carers compared to just over one in five men. The data also shows the gender pay gap is largest for women in their 50s – women in their 20s earn around £30 less than men in their 20s, but women in their 50s have a median weekly pay £160 lower than their male counterparts.
This combination of factors has a negative impact on earnings and savings,which means women may have to continue working for longer and enter later life and retirement financially worse off than men.
While huge progress has been made on supporting women to work, there are still significant barriers to women earning the same as men which will have a direct impact on women’s experiences of later life. The gender pay gap and health inequalities must be addressed to ensure that older women aren’t missing out on the benefits of a longer life.
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better said:
“As a society we have made great strides with gender equality, but this shows that we still have a long way to go. The reverse in disability free life expectancy is a significant cause for concern as we are undoing the progress we have made. And this data shows women still are facing barriers to employment and equal pay meaning they are entering later life less financially secure than their male peers.
“The full impact of the coronavirus is yet to be known, but it risks widening these inequalities even further. We need to address these issues to ensure that women aren’t at a disadvantage in later life. The gender pay gap must be addressed if women are to enjoy the same levels of financial security in later life as men.”