Institutional policies and inclusive regulatory strategies are critical in addressing the disadvantages Pacific women face as they grow older and retire, a new Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) report argues.

A Secure Retirement: Leveling the Playing Field for Women in the Pacific, published today, outlines how institutional arrangements can disadvantage women’s entitlements to retirement benefits, and the priority reforms for Pacific governments to address these disadvantages.

Retirement benefits are essential for Pacific women’s economic empowerment as they age, yet lower wages, uncertain or informal employment conditions, and caring responsibilities impact on the retirement fund contributions they can make throughout their working lives.

A Secure Retirement assesses the retirement fund systems of 11 of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 14 Pacific developing member countries (DMCs), identifying women’s disadvantage in three categories: regulatory impediments, organizational policy and practice, and economic participation.

In response, the report proposes priority reforms to address women’s disadvantage in accessing retirement fund benefits. These include enabling women engaged in all types of employment, including in the informal sector, to participate in retirement schemes and make contributions; evaluating the impact of using retirement fund accounts for non-retirement purposes, such as disaster relief and unemployment benefits; and removing barriers for employer contributions.

The report notes that retirement funds should also reach out to women, including those in the informal sector or rural areas, to increase awareness of their retirement fund options and improve financial skills and competency.

“Women’s retirement funds are often insufficient for old age, leaving them vulnerable in their final years,” PSDI Economic Empowerment of Women Expert Sarah Boxall said. “Increasing the economic security of women in retirement should be a priority for governments, retirement funds, businesses, and civil society.”

Alongside its other activities assisting Pacific retirement funds, PSDI is supporting the Pacific Islands Investment Forum (PIIF) and its member funds to consider the most effective solutions to inclusion issues for retirement funds. As a result of discussions at a recent PIIF CEO Forum, a “Women in Superannuation” working group is being established to progress these discussions.

“Retirement funds in the Pacific are increasingly called upon to become more efficient and profitable institutions, while also meeting social protection goals,” PSDI Financing Growth Expert Jeremy Cleaver said. “The recommendations in this report can help place retirement funds on an even footing, and facilitate financial security in retirement for women.”

PSDI is an ADB technical assistance program in partnership with the governments of Australia and New Zealand. It supports ADB’s 14 Pacific DMCs to improve the enabling environment for business and to achieve inclusive, private sector-led economic growth, including through reforms designed to enhance the economic empowerment of women.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.