UK – Pensions minister pensions Alan Johnson has called for radical reform to end the “scandal” over single women’s pensions discrimination.

“I believe we need radical reform in order to tackle the scandal of women’s pensions - where on average, today’s single women pensioners have an income £24 (€34) a week lower than single male pensioners,” Johnson said at a conference organised by the Association of British Insurers.

He pointed out that only 16% of newly retiring women qualified for a full basic state pension on the basis of their own contributions.

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of the of the Equal Opportunities Commission, also spoke of the pension disparity between the sexes.

She explained the state pension system is still based on a “male bread-winner” social model with women still having “the lionshare of caring” for children and the elderly.

Those who manage to keep working and do so part-time face a 40% pay-gap an hour.

Slocock suggested an earning-linked pensions model with some elements of the current second tier state pension as well as simplyfying the system and incentivise savings.

“This problem is not going away, it is a national scandal and we do need action,” she said.

“There is pension poverty out there and if anyone knows a better way of tackling it without means testing, please let me know,” said pension minister Malcolm Wicks.

Wicks also commented on the private sector saying that that 4.5 million workers with access to a pension scheme have failed to join.

He added the next Turner report, due to be presented by the Pension Commission, headed by Adair Turner, next October would help the government to deide whether to “grasp the nettle of compulsion”.

He told delegates there were “many, many advantages” but stressed the government had not yet decided and the issue needed careful consideration.

“It has to work,” he said adding that the solution could lay with “voluntarism with an edge”.

“This is not a left-or-right issue,” the minister said.