Pension Gender Gap in the Nederlands

  • Albert van Marwijk Kooy

The gender gap in pensions issues has been the focus of the European Commission, including in the context of the implementation of the European Pillar on Social Rights. The Commission emphasizes equal opportunities between men and women in the field of pensions, and states: “equal rules might not be enough”. The Netherlands scores poorly internationally in terms of the pension gap between men and women. In fact, the Netherlands has the largest gender pension gap in the EU, which is 45.4% (European Commission 2018). The reasons for this seem to lie mainly in the structure of the Dutch pension system. The Dutch system is internationally acclaimed for the compulsory work-related supplementary pension that also ensures an adequate pension with the AOW (Mercer, 2018). The AOW should protect Dutch households against poverty, where the compulsory supplementary pension should ensure that the drop in standard of living after retirement, is not too big (Knoef et al., 2016). The major emphasis in the system on this compulsory supplementary pension is that existing pension income is highly dependent on the labor market position during working life. Differences in labor market participation (Euwals et al., 2011), the number of hours of work (Russo & Hassink, 2008), and wage differences between men and women (Albrecht et al., 2009; Van der Meer, 2011) result in significant differences in accrued supplementary pension. Different employment and pension regulations contribute to the maintenance of differences in the build-up of the supplementary pension.

What legal measures are possible to reduce the pension gap? And what would the consequences be? An illustration of the importance of these questions is the very recent announcement by Stichting Pensioenfonds Huisartsen that they will be investigating whether or not the pension scheme needs to be adjusted due to the fact that the share of female GPs working part-time has increased significantly in recent years (Pensioen Pro, January 22, 2020). The fact that in theory men and women have the same rights to pension accrual does not mean that this is also realized in practice.

This raises the following questions:

  • How large is the gender pension gap in the Netherlands according to the most recent data?
  • What are the main causes of the gender pension gap in the Netherlands?
  • Are there any legal rules under employment law and pension law that contribute to maintaining this pension gap?
  • Given existing equal treatment legislation: what employment and pension law options are there to reduce this pension gap?

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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