Policies targeted at people who are not in paid work could reduce the gender pension gap, with women taking time away from work to look after family a significant contributing factor, according to new research.

In a report published today, independent research organisation The Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) revealed that there are currently 50% more women than men heading towards retirement without any private pension savings.

“A gender pension gap exists in the UK, driven by pay differentials and exacerbated by the fact that women are more likely to take career breaks to care for children or elderly relatives, and by the design factors of the current pension system,” it said in the report.

“This gap is both recognised and mitigated in some form by different bodies, however the gap persists and has ramifications for the fairness of retirement for half of the population.”

The PPI found that in order to draw the same pension income throughout their retirement, women would need to have saved around 5%-7% more than men by retirement age to allow for living longer.

There were now 1.2 million women in their 50s with no private pension wealth, it reported, with this group representing approximately 5% of all women.

As a result of factors such as the gender pay gap and differing working patterns between the sexes, by retirement women would have approximately accrued £51,000 (€56,4000), whilst men would have about £157,000 of pension wealth, it said.

Among measures to tackle the pensions gap, one of the PPI’s suggestions in the report is a policy targeted at people not in paid work.

“This is because a greater proportion of women take time out compared to men,” it said.

“Policies such as the family carer top-up could therefore reduce the pensions gap.”

The research organisation suggests a family carer top-up could make up half the pension saving missed by taking time away from paid work to care.

This would reduce the gender pensions gap by as much as 28%, it said, since more women qualify to receive this benefit compared to men, with 1.5m women qualifying against 150,000 men.