Pension in Canada: Policy Reform because Women Matter

 

Improvements at the provincial level

While provinces do not set much in the way of public pension policy, the government of British Columbia could encourage enhanced economic security for women facing retirement down the road by adopting these strategies:

1 - Create low cost social housing specifically designated for mid-life women and seniors as some spend an unsustainable 50 to 60% of their income on housing1 . Make this housing available to women as young as 55 who frequently have difficulty finding work and are too young to receive pension income.

2 - Until women have pay equity and unless unwaged caregiving work is more fairly recognized by Canada Pension Plan (CPP), many women will continue to be dependent on their spouses’ pension and its survivor benefits. Statistics Canada reveals that many women who are comfortably off in marriage slide irrevocably into poverty as widows2. WE*ACT believes inadequate Joint and Last Survivor Rates and insufficient   indexing of pensions are partially to blame.

We ask that the province review the percentage of a monthly pension assigned to the survivor after a pension-earning spouse’s death. The rate is 60% right across Canada today but some experts estimate the amount required to maintain a similar standard of living consistent with that experienced as a couple may be as much as 15% higher.

Currently, couples may opt to increase or decrease a Survivor Rate. However, we believe permitting 60% to exist as a default perpetuates the illusion that this amount is adequate.

3 - Ensure that provincial top-ups do not suffer corresponding decreases when federal CPP Disability Pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) programs are given cost of living increases.

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