There is an anomaly in the calculation of the entitlement to the State pension. I put it to the Minister for Social Protection that there is ongoing discrimination against those who have taken time out of their careers to care for children, elderly family members, etc. The practical reality of it is that women are impacted. Since I was elected, women have been calling to my office to tell me of their shock on realising that the payment they will receive from the State on turning 66 years of age will be considerably lower than they had planned. There are many injustices in life and many of the stories I have heard are significant. One lady, on her 66th birthday, realised she would receive €152 rather than €233 a week, a significant shortfall of approximately €80 a week.
What is the country saying to those who selflessly put their careers on hold in order to stay at home to care for their children or elderly parents? They are providing vital social services and doing the State a huge service. In many cases, they are caring for those vulnerable members of society who may otherwise have ended up in care and costing the State considerably more than €80 a week. I recently spoke to another lady who is losing €30 a week because she worked for two weeks before she became a stay-at-home mother and then subsequently returned to work. She is facing her retirement years on her own and is being penalised financially for caring for her family. If she had not worked for those two weeks prior to raising her family, she would now be financially better off.
Another lady started working in 1966. There were years when she had more than 80 contributions, but only 52 of them are counted. She took time out to raise her children, but her average contributions were calculated over the period 1966 to 2015. As a result, she has an average of 25 contributions per year. She receives €196 instead of €230. To add insult to injury, when the pension increased by €3 she received €2.60. She will be insulted again in springtime when she does not receive the full €5 increase.
So far, it has generally been women that have been affected by this anomaly. How can we move forward in encouraging an equal place for women in the workforce when such open discrimination takes place? This type of inequality cancels out family-friendly policies that may be in place. The Minister for Social Protection must reform the manner in which these pensions are calculated. We must value the contributions these women have made to society and ensure they are not penalised and confined to poverty on retirement. There are many more of these cases. I hear of them on a weekly basis. The Minister must reform the manner in which the contributions are calculated.