8/2020 Tairi Rõõm and Orsolya Soosaar. The gender gap in pension wealth in Europe: Evidence from twenty countries

Working Papers of Eesti Pank 8/2020

This study analyses the gender differences in defined contribution pension assets in twenty EU member states. The analysis uses data from the 2017 wave of the Household Finance and Consumption Survey. We evaluate gender gaps in the probability of participating in defined contribution pension schemes and in the
value of the assets accumulated in individual retirement accounts. The gaps in pension wealth tend to be in favour of men, but are not statistically significant in the majority of the countries that our study covers. This applies equally to participation in personalised pension schemes and to the value of pension assets. Men are significantly more likely to own pension assets in seven countries and the value of assets is significantly larger for men in six countries. The differences in pension holdings between genders stem from differences in labour market behaviour and remuneration. The patterns of work history for men and women tend to be divergent, with women usually having a lower labour market participation rate and lower wages. Taking this into account eliminates or reduces the gender gaps in pension assets in all of the countries studied. In addition, the earlier literature has shown that gaps in pension assets are related to gender differences in personal traits. Men tend to be more optimistic about investment returns, more willing to take risks when investing, and more competitive. All these traits in combination mean that they accumulate more assets on their pension accounts over the life cycle. There is no conclusive evidence for gender differences in time preferences, which would affect saving behaviour.

JEL Codes: D14, G23, G11, J32

Keywords: retirement saving behaviour, voluntary retirement savings, mandatory retirement saving system, private pension wealth, gender gap, Europe

DOI: 10.23656/25045520/082020/0182

Authors’ emails: tairi.room [at] eestipank.ee, orsolya.soosaar [at] eestipank.ee.


The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of Eesti Pank or the Eurosystem.