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Older women 'twice as likely to be hit by pension cuts following stricter rules'

Older women are twice as likely to be hit by pension cuts introduced following the country's economic collapse.

Research for Age Action revealed that about 36,000 pensioners have suffered as a result of stricter rules on the state pension and that almost two thirds of them are women.

Thousands of retirees, mostly women who gave up a job to rear their children in the home in the '60s, '70s and '80s, are losing about 1,500 euro a year as a result.

The tougher criteria for getting a full state pension was introduced by former tanaiste Joan Burton in budget changes in September 2012 and penalised workers who took time out of their careers, including to care for their children or family, and missed making small, weekly contributions.

Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications at Age Action, said women are being punished for raising a family.

"These are women who were working and made a conscious decision to give up their job to rear their children. There were no other supports, no creches, to enable them to keep working," he said.

"They raised their family and went back to work and because of those choices they are substantially less well off."

Figures from the Department of Social Protection showed 22,248 women who retired since 2012 are getting smaller pensions due to time out of the workforce.

Age Action branded the pension changes drastic and said the system is unfair.

The charity said the revised welfare rules average out the number of PRSI contributions a worker has made over their lives using calculations based on the number of years between the first day of work and retirement.

Justin Moran continued: "Under the old system, if you had an average of 20 contributions you would be entitled to 228.70 euro. But after 2012, this dropped to 198.60 euro, a cut of more of more than 30 euro each week."

Age Action is calling on Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to reverse the pension cut introduced and backdate it to restore the incomes of tens of thousands of pensioners.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins said: "This report sheds much needed light on the disproportionate impact which recent changes to the contributory pension criteria have had on women in Ireland, adding a further injustice to the deep historic gender inequalities within our pension system."

A spokesman for the department said pension rates had been increased across the board rather than reversing the changes " to the benefit of every pensioner".

"It is also expected that this will be the main focus of pension rate changes in Budget 2018," the spokesman added.

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