Angela Rayner uses exaggerated figure for number of WASPI women in poverty

Published: 28th Nov 2019

In brief

Claim

Millions of women have been plunged into poverty because of changes to the pension age made in 2011.

Conclusion

This is an exaggeration. We don’t know the exact number but it is likely substantially lower.

“[On changes to the state pension age made in 2011] It is completely unacceptable and millions of women have been plunged into poverty…”

Angela Rayner, 24 November 2019

On the Andrew Marr Show, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner was promoting Labour’s plan to compensate the WASPI women. 

WASPI stands for women against state pension inequality. Their campaign relates to changes to the women’s pension age that were introduced in 1995 and 2011.

As a result, around five million people born between 1953 and 1960 in Great Britain (both men and women) now have to wait longer before they reach state pension age, with women born between December 1953 and October 1954 having the longest wait (18 months). 

Ms Rayner’s comments specifically referred to the law passed in 2011 which brought forward a rise in the state pension age to 66 from 2026 to 2020. This meant that the already planned increase in women’s state pension age from 60 to 65 sped up.

Anyone born between 6 April 1953 and 5 April 1960 will have their state pension age brought forward by the law. Those born after 5 February 1955 have yet to be affected directly by the change.

Ms Rayner said: “It is completely unacceptable and millions of women have been plunged into poverty.”

It seems likely that the policy has increased poverty, but not by anywhere near “millions” (whatever standard definition of poverty you choose to take).

For starters, there aren’t millions of women aged 60-64 who are in poverty (the age group that includes most of those affected who have not yet retired).

The best estimates we’ve seen suggest around 300,000 to 350,000 women in this age group are in relative low income (between 2015 and 2018). This is a commonly-used measure of poverty in the UK.

So there’s no evidence that millions of women have been plunged into poverty because of the 2011 Act.

It’s also unlikely that millions will be plunged into poverty once the law has been fully implemented. By 2026, when the shift in the pension age will be completed, 2.6 million women will have been affected. But it’s highly unlikely all of these women will be at some point in poverty due to the Act’s effects.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies analysed data between 2010 and 2014, finding that among women aged 60 to 62 affected by an earlier increase in the State Pension, the poverty rate increased by over six percentage points as a result of the changes. Although the income of these women decreased due to not receiving the state pension, they were more likely to be in work which reduced this effect. This suggests only a very small proportion of the 2.6 million women affected are likely to be in poverty as a result of the change.

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