The state pension age for women has been steadily increasing since 2010 and will continue to rise until it reaches 68. Many have expressed their concerns about this increase, leading to the rise of movements like BackTo60 and Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI), which claim that the new state pension age for women is unfair. On this page, you’ll learn more about what women’s pensions are, what the increase in women’s state pension age means and what effects it’s having.

Women's PensionsWomen's PensionsWomen's Pensions
The rundown
  • Before the increase in the state pension age, women could claim their pension once they reached 60
  • The state pension is funded through National Insurance contributions made by employees working in the UK
  • The current state pension age for both men and women is 65, but this will continue to increase in the coming years

What is the women’s state pension?

The state pension for women (and, indeed, for everyone) is a regular payment made by the government to those who’ve reached eligible state pension age, giving everyone has a solid financial base when they retire. 

The state pension is funded through National Insurance contributions and how much you’ll get depends on the number of National Insurance qualifying years you’ve worked. For this reason, not everyone is eligible for a state pension

What are the eligibility requirements for claiming a state pension?

You must meet the following requirements to be eligible to claim a state pension in the UK:

  • You must work in the UK
  • You must reach the state pension age determined by the government
  • To claim a full pension, you must have made National Insurance contributions for 35 years (although these years don’t have to be consecutive), if you qualify for a state pension after April 2016
  • If you’re not working, you can make voluntary National Insurance contributions, or the government can credit them for you 

What is the state pension age for women now?

Currently, the women’s pension age is 66.

From the 1940s until April 2010, the state pension age was 60 for women and 65 for men. However, the government policy on women’s state pension age changed in the 1990s, when a timetable that would equalise the state pension age for men and women was agreed. The government’s decision under the 1995 Pension Act was to increase the state pension age for women from 60 to 65 between 2010 and 2020. 

However, the coalition government of 2010 decided to accelerate this timetable. They legislated in the 2011 Pension Act that by April 2016, the women’s state pension age would increase to 63, and to 65 by November 2018. In October 2020, state pension age increased to 66 for men and women and is set to rise further in the future.

Why did the government increase the state pension age for women?

The change in women’s state pension age was considered quite sudden, with the age increase to 65 brought in over two years earlier than originally planned. The reason given was that life expectancy in the UK had risen faster than expected since the last revised timetable, by 0.15% since 2019, and 1.55% since 2010

Raising the state pension age for women was also a way for the government to control its expenses. Increasing the pension age for women and bringing this increase forward, means fewer women can claim their pension, making pensions more affordable for the government.

How did the state pension age increase affect women?

Due to the age increase for women’s state pension, over 3.8 million women born in the 1950s have suffered detriment. The BackTo60 campaign argues that the changes were discriminatory, while others criticise the change for being too sudden and not giving women enough time to prepare for it. Here’s how it has affected women, particularly those born in the 1950s:

  • When the state pension age increased in 2010, many women born in the 1950s were either approaching or very close to their original state pension age of 60
  • This lack of notice meant that many women didn’t have time to adjust or make alternative financial arrangements that would have otherwise eased the transition

While the government heard these complaints, they were ultimately unsuccessful. Organisations like WASPI are still campaigning to reverse this decision, even though women’s state pension age is now 66. 

While the state pension age for men is also increasing, the change has particularly detrimental effects on women. In general, women are more affected by this age increase because:

  • Only 52% of women are saving for retirement, compared to 60% of men
  • Female pensioners’ net incomes only equate to about 85% of male pensioners’
  • Over two-thirds of pensioners who are currently living in poverty are women

What are the other ways I can save for retirement?

To help prepare for the next state pension age increase, you might want to consider paying into a personal pension or opening a savings account. Savings accounts, such as fixed rate bonds, can provide a competitive, fixed interest rate and help you save more for your retirement.

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