A United Nations committee has urged the government to ensure the increase in state pension age does not have a discriminatory impact on women (pensions discrimination).

In its comments on the UK’s eighth periodic report, published on March 11, the UN committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed its concern regarding the increase in the state pension age for women from 60 to 66. It stated that the several legislative changes had affected the pension entitlements of women born in the 1950s, and were contributing to “poverty, homelessness and financial hardship among the affected women”. Backto60, a campaign group requesting the state pension age be kept at 60 for women born in the 1950s, gave evidence to the committee. Along with other campaign groups like Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi), Backto60 is arguing the changes had contributed to perceived ‘inequality and unfair treatment’ of women born in the 1950s. The groups claim when the 1995 Conservative government’s Pension Act included plans to increase the women’s state pension age to 65 – the same as men’s – the changes were implemented unfairly, with little or no personal notice. The movements also claim the changes were implemented faster than promised with the 2011 Pension Act, and left women with no time to make alternative plans, leading to devastating consequences (pensions discrimination).

Mortgage market exodus

AA Mortgages is the fifth lender to close its doors to new customers in the past three months as fierce pricing wars force providers out of the market. The lender confirmed that it will not be offering mortgages to new customers for the foreseeable future, however it did not rule out re-entering what it described as a ‘highly competitive market’ in the future. Industry observers described the situation as “worrying” as big lenders seek to undercut the rest of the market and the small exodus of lenders since December has led to concern these could be early warning signs that a second credit crunch is on the way. With the current climate of low interest rates and extreme competition between lenders, it’s possible that more mortgage providers could be feeling the pressure, too. Less competition for banks, of course, will not serve consumers in the long term.

Tax the rich

Most people living in advanced economies want to see their government increase taxes on the rich, and almost 40% would be willing to pay extra taxes to fund healthcare and pensions, according to an OECD survey of 21 countries. The research is based on a poll of over 22,000 people aged 18 to 70, who were asked about their worries and concerns and how well they think their government helps them tackle social and economic risks. In response to the statement ‘should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor’, in every country surveyed, 60% of respondents picked ‘yes’ or ‘definitely yes’. In Greece, Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, the share rose to 75% or more. An average of almost 40% also said they would be willing to pay an extra 2% of their own income in taxes for better health care and pensions, with some age differences. Young people were most likely to prioritise better housing supports, for instance, and parents more likely than others to favour better education services.

Rising inflation

Rising prices for food and alcohol pushed inflation higher in February, the latest official figures show. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to 1.9% last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. The index is a measure of inflation calculated by tracking the price of a selected basket of goods and services. It is worth noting, though, that while February’s rise in inflation may be marginally disappointing for consumer purchasing power, it is still looking appreciably better than in mid-2018 – especially as earnings growth retained its firmer tone in January. Real earnings growth is currently 1.5%, the best level since end-2016, although still appreciably below long-term norms. Most commentators believe that inflation will spike significantly higher if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, primarily due to a likely marked fall in sterling – even though the government has indicated that under a temporary scheme, 87% of imports by value would be eligible for zero-tariff access compared to 80% of imports currently being tariff-free.

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