September 26, 2021

women still get 40% less than men

1,503 euros gross. This is the average monthly pension, excluding reversion, paid to retirees living in France in 2019, all plans combined, according to figures published on May 20 by the Department of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees ), in the 2021 edition of its report “Retirees and pensions”.

With a still very large gap between the amounts received by women and those received by men, since the former received an average pension (1,145 euros) 40.5% lower than that of the latter (1,924 euros). In the short term, the gap does not decrease much, it was 40.9% in 2018. However, it has lost 10 points in fifteen years (it was indeed 50% in 2004).

The two main sources of these differences in pensions are differences in salary and contribution period.

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The decrease in the gap observed over the past fifteen years is explained, according to the DREES, by the increase, since the post-war period, in the activity rate of women (and therefore the constitution of a specific right to retirement ) and their level of qualification (which gradually reduces the pay gap). But also by the establishment in 1972 of the old-age insurance for parents at home (AVPF), a system which allows the acquisition of pension rights for the education of children (subject to conditions of resources, interruption or reduction of activity, etc.)

28% difference, including reversion

If we take into account the reversions of widows and widowers, the difference in pensions between men and women is reduced to 28.1% in 2019 (it was 28.2% in 2018 and 35.4% in 2004 ). The average pension of women residing in France then increases to 1,399 euros gross, and that of men to 1,947 euros (the reversions are fractions of the pensions of the deceased spouse that the survivor can, under certain conditions, receive until his or her own death – terms vary depending on the plan).

This still strong effect of reversions on reducing the pension gaps between women and men is explained by the fact that the average monthly amount of reversion for women is higher than that for men, writes Drees. But above all, by the over-representation of women among reversion beneficiaries, who constitute 87% of the nearly 3.8 million reversion beneficiaries living in France in 2019.

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This overrepresentation stems in particular from their greater longevity, due to the fact that they are on average younger than their spouse, and that widowers more often than widows have income levels exceeding the ceilings allowing them to receive reversion (in schemes where it is subject to a resource condition).

Smallest difference among civil servants

The average pension gap between women and men, however, varies greatly from one pension scheme to another. So from one professional status to another.

The DREES study thus reveals a difference of up to 55% at Agirc-Arrco, the supplementary retirement scheme for employees.1, and 43% to the basic pension scheme for craftsmen and traders. Against “only” 14% for the state civil service system and 10% for the local and hospital civil servants scheme (the National Pension Fund for Local Government Employees, CNRACL). For liberal professions plans, the report indicates a difference of 24%.

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These greater gaps between women and men in the private sector than in the public were also highlighted in a “focus” published on May 27 by the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED), and this, “For small pensions as well as at the top of the scale”.

Why ? If, among the small pensions, “Gender inequalities are mainly due to differences in contribution periods” (women having on average shorter contribution periods than men, with more fragmented careers), among people receiving the highest pensions, the retirement gap between women and men is mainly explained by differences in reference salary, details INED, based on an article published in 2020 in a scientific journal by three of its researchers2.

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However, these different effects, which therefore play more or less depending on the level of pension, are less marked among civil servants than in the private sector, continues the INED, which notes that “Retired women from the public sector have had less fragmented careers than those in the private sector” and that “the calculation of the reference salary less strongly penalizes career breaks in the public sector”.

Also underlined, for the public service, “Greater homogeneity of work paths” and “The failure to take into account bonuses, which are more frequently received in predominantly male than female jobs, in the calculation of pensions” (excluding additional pension).

1. Figures calculated on retirees who received a pension from French schemes in 2019, residing in France or abroad, excluding reversion and supplement for three children or more.

2. Carole Bonnet (research director), Dominique Meurs and Benoit Rapoport (associate researchers).