A 58-year-old Maltese woman will not be getting a full pension because she and her husband separated, even though her ex-husband paid for their national insurance with their shared earnings.
Angele* fears for her future, as she will have to pay around €8,000 for the shortfall if nothing changes. “At the very least, I feel that this should be shared between both parts.”
Angele has been writing to the office of the Prime Minister to put forward her situation, and that of many other mothers of her generation, since 2018.
She got married in 1984, and had worked for three years before and during her marriage. Despite wanting to go back to work, she stopped working after she had her first child.
Her husband, Mark*, had asked her to stay home for their first-born, and then for their second and third child. “I always wanted to go back to work, but my husband wanted me to be a full-time mother,” Angele said.
Throughout her marriage, she did casual work at home for 10 years – work she did on her own, without Mark’s assistance. The profits from this work went into their shared earnings.
Years later, Angele started working on a part-time basis again. That same year her husband moved out, and the couple officially separated the following year. “I am now divorced, still working, and paying national insurance.”
In the more than two decades of her marriage, her husband paid national insurance with their shared earnings. The two would have benefitted from one pension as Angele only did casual work during their marriage.
But now that they separated, only Mark will benefit from a full pension, since only he paid national insurance.
Their shared earnings benefited from his full-time job, at which he was continually climbing the income ladder. “I, on the other hand, will get a minimum pension at 65 years old,” Angele explained.
She feels that the law needs to be addressed. “I believe that I, and a large number of women of my generation, are suffering a grave injustice here and being discriminated against.”
“In a few years time there are going to be many women in my position on the poverty line. Women who dedicated their lives to their family, and were then left alone to cope with their new circumstances.”
“We worked at home when it was necessary, we stayed with our children when it was necessary. All the while our husbands were enjoying the fruits of working and climbing the corporate ladder all their lives.”
Being concerned about these issues, Angele has been in touch with the office of the Prime Minister since 2018, but she hasn’t seen much action being taken.
Joseph Muscat replied with an email in May 2019: “Despite legal difficulties, we are committed to address this by the end of this legislature.” The issue had also been mentioned in the Labour Party Electoral Manifesto.
That same month, Muscat said in a debate that some problems with pensions were being addressed. However, there was no mention of the problems that many women were, are and will be facing.
“As time is passing, what are the plans in this regard?” Angele wonders. This had been mentioned in an electoral manifesto. As we once again go to the polls, I and other women in my situation await some action to repair this discrimination.”
The government has introduced a scheme whereby those in employment who have a gap in their contributory record, mostly women, can apply to fill up to five years of missing contributions.
“This is exactly what I have an issue with,” Angele said.
“My husband was paying contributions out of our shared earnings. At the very least, the missing contributions should be made up by both parties – not just the woman.”
Having taken time out to look after her whole family, including her husband, at her husband’s insistence, Angele declares the situation unjust.
“The contributions were paid out of our communal income, and now only I have to make up the discrepancy! This is a glaring injustice for all women in my situation.”
As separated and divorced women are placed at a severe disadvantage, action should have been taken years ago.
In 2020, Mark Musu of the Ministry of Social Justice said that the matter was being dealt with by the Pensions Strategy Group. On 15th December 2020, a report by that group was tabled in Parliament.
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*Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the individuals involved.