By Poly Pantelides
THE House Labour Committee is looking to rectify the inherent sexism in the state pension system that currently excludes widowers from receiving their spouse’s benefit, the committee’s head said yesterday.
Andreas Fakontis, deputy with the opposition AKEL party, said men were currently eligible for a widower’s pension only if they were previously financially dependent on their wives because of disability, while widows of former civil servants were eligible by virtue of their gender.
The labour committee wants to correct the sexism without having to increase the contributions to the state’s fund from which the pension is paid, Fakontis said.
A Labour Ministry study has estimated that including widowers as is necessitates a total increase of contributions by 1.2 per cent somehow divided up by the state, the employer and the employee, he said.
Instead, lawmakers are considering merging age-related pensions and widows or widowers’ pensions, offering 72.5 per cent of the total that would otherwise be paid out, Fakontis said. If no age pension was due then beneficiaries would get the full amount of a widower/widow pension. Any changes would only apply to new beneficiaries. Age pensions usually start being given at 65.
The committee also said they wanted to regulate widow/widower pensions where the deceased spouse was married more than once. Parliament wants to be able, at a minimum, to factor in the length of marriage. Fakontis said this was because many older people were now getting married with younger spouses. Another deputy, Marios Mavrides of the ruling party DISY, previously singled out from the bigger issue that of men marrying much younger, “possibly foreign” women, which is in essence what lawmakers feel they must address.
A total of 2,913 people, 2,672 women and 241 men receive a widow or widower’s pension from the government, according to September treasury figures.
Meanwhile, the committee acknowledged that lacking a civil partnership law, the partners of unmarried couples were left vulnerable. In 2011, a 93-year-old woman complained to the Ombudswoman after authorities refused to give her a widow’s pension because she had never married the father of her eight children and partner of 67 years.