Pensions gap between sexes widens

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LONDON, Oct 30 (Reuters) The gender ''pension gap'' is widening, with an increasing number of women being ill-prepared for retirement compared to men, a report shows.

Some 13 per cent fewer women are saving enough for retirement than men, a figure that has grown from 8 per cent last year, according to Scottish Widows.

A total 54 percent of men are making adequate provision for when they stop working, up 5 per cent on last year, compared to a static 41 percent of women.

The research, based on a YouGov poll of 5,414 people, shows that a third of women of working age do not have any form of pension, compared to 22 percent of men.

It comes amid government plans to introduce a National Pensions Saving Scheme (NPSS), also known as ''personal accounts'', in 2012 to try to plug a 57 billion pound savings gap.

The scheme, into which workers will be automatically enrolled, aims to encourage around 10 million Britons without a workplace pension to save.

But there are fears that a cap on contributions could cause employers to ''level down'' contributions to existing occupational schemes or close them altogether.

Around 7.3 million women are financially dependent on their husbands or partners, according to the Widows report.

Of those who are saving for retirement, men are putting away a larger proportion of their salaries: an average 10.3 per cent, compared to 9.3 per cent among women.

Widows attributed the disparity, at least in part, to the earnings gap between the sexes.

Women earn just 62 per cent of average male earnings, a fact reflected in pension savings: women's contributions to defined contribution pension schemes are typically just 66 per cent that of men's.

Ian Naismith, head of pensions at Scottish Widows, said: ''as well as earning less, women are saving less for their futures than men.

''And even the women that are saving in a pension are saving a smaller percentage of what they earn -- effectively compounding the effect of the pay gap, and making the gender 'pensions gap' even wider.'' He said the outlook was bleak. ''Their (women's) working patterns are unlikely to change in the near future and they're much more likely to stay at home and look after their children than men.' REUTERS SG AS1457

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