Katja Möhring
Is there a motherhood penalty in retirement income in Europe? The role of lifecourse and institutional characteristics

Ageing and Society, 2018: 38, issue 12, pp. 2560-2589
ISSN: 0144-686X (print); 1469-1779 (online)

This study examines the retirement income of women in Europe, focusing on the effect of motherhood. Due to their more interrupted working careers compared to non-mothers and fathers, mothers are likely to accumulate fewer pension entitlements, and consequently, to receive lower incomes in later life. However, pension systems in Europe vary widely in the degree to which they compensate for carerelated career interruptions by means of redistributive elements or pension care entitlements. Therefore, care interruptions may matter for the retirement income of women in some countries, but may be rather irrelevant in others. On the basis of life history data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARELIFE) for women aged between 60 and 75 years in 13 European countries, the interplay of individual lifecourse characteristics with institutional and structural factors is examined. The results show that the lower retirement income of mothers is mainly a result of fewer years in employment and lower-status jobs throughout the lifecourse. The analysis of institutional factors reveals that pension care entitlements are not able to provide a compensation for care-related cutbacks in working life. A generally redistributive design of the pension system including basic or targeted pension schemes, in contrast, appears as an effective measure to balance differences in employment participation over the lifecourse.