Are women thinking less about retirement savings? New data from the National Pension System (NPS) shows a much lower-than-expected participation among women, raising concerns about the gender gap in retirement planning. 

In the Corporate NPS category —13,500 corporates now on board with 18 lakh employee enrolments - the number of women subscribers stood at 22 per cent as of end March 2023, the latest data from the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) showed. 

In the ‘All Citizens Model”, which is voluntary, the number of women subscribers stood at 26 per cent as of end March 2023. However, among corporate employees, women participation in NPS has been virtually stagnant in percentage terms over the last three years, even as the total number of corporate employees in NPS has increased threefold between March 2019 and August 2023 from 8 lakh to 18 lakh.

“Gender inclusion is low in case of NPS while it is high in case of Atal Pension Yojana (APY). The distribution between women to men in APY is 46:54. Here in the case of NPS, women subscribers account for 27-28 percent,” Deepak Mohanty, Chairman, PFRDA, told businessLine.

Fewer women workers

Of course nest eggs are not equal because women’s participation in the workforce is low too, and Mohanty admits as much. “Part of the reason is lower labour participation among women. With less number of women in the formal workforce, their onboarding to NPS is less. Considering that women have higher longevity than men, they need pension even more than men. There is a need for every woman to have a pension account,” he said.

While the NPS has gained traction as a robust retirement tool offering financial security and tax benefits, these advantages seem to have been insufficient in attracting a substantial number of female contributors.

Financial experts and social scientists have weighed in on the issue, attributing the gender gap in NPS participation to various factors, including a lack of awareness, gender wage gap and traditional roles that result in women prioritising family finances and other responsibilities over their own retirement planning.

To improve women’s adoption of NPS as a retirement tool, several strategies can be considered, say experts. These include Enhanced Awareness Campaigns; Financial Education Programs; Equal Pay Advocacy; Flexible Contribution Options; Gender-Sensitive Products and Supportive Corporate Policies.