April 27, 2022
The Honorable Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Murray,
On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I write to endorse your bill, S. 2446, the Women’s Retirement Protection Act. Your legislation would take important steps toward closing the retirement income gap that leaves women reaching retirement age with significantly fewer resources than men, which they must stretch over more years because of their longer life expectancies.
There are a number of factors that cause this retirement income gap, beginning with the persistent wage gap that means the average woman nearing retirement age will need to work almost an entire decade longer than her male counterpart to earn comparable lifetime wages. Other key contributors to the retirement income gap are the different job characteristics that apply to women’s work histories as women are more likely to take time out of the workforce for caregiving, and they are far more likely than men to spend a significant portion of their careers working part-time.
Part-time workers are much less likely to participate in an employer sponsored retirement plan than those working full-time. Only one-third of employers nationwide offer retirement plans to their part-time workers and participation in those plans averaged 18 percent in 2016. Even when they are able to participate in a retirement plan, workers in part-time jobs earn less per hour than workers in full-time jobs and therefore accumulate less in retirement assets.
Women are almost twice as likely as men to work part-time, either for their entire work lives or for a part of their careers and in 2019, women represented almost two-thirds of the part-time workforce. In addition, employed women generally work fewer hours per week than men. On average, women worked 36.4 hours per week in 2018, compared with 41.1 hours for men. While part-time work may make it easier for women to participate in the labor force, its lower wages and lack of access to retirement plans results in lower asset accumulation over a career.
- 2446 expands the minimum participation standards for part-time workers by building on important enhancements included in the SECURE Act. This legislation established retirement plan eligibility for these workers after three years with an employer. Your bill would reduce the required employment period to two years, expanding access to employer-sponsored plans to many more long-term, part-time workers.
In addition to this important provision, your bill strengthens consumer protections by applying existing spousal protections in traditional pensions to defined contribution plans and preventing one spouse from undermining a couple’s retirement resources without the other’s knowledge and consent. S. 2446 also establishes grant programs for community-based organizations that help provide information and financial tools to working women and those that assist low-income women in obtaining qualified domestic relations orders, the legal instruments that allow for the division of retirement benefits, thus assuring they receive the retirement benefits they are entitled to following a divorce or legal separation.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has as its mission the preservation and expansion these critical cornerstones of American’s economic security. However, Social Security was never intended to be the sole source of worker’s income in retirement. Over the long term, women would benefit from the restoration of the traditional “three legged-stool” of retirement: a robust Social Security program, a reformed employer-based retirement system that borrows the best from traditional pensions, and a strengthened defined contribution system with adequate protections for women.
The Women’s Retirement Protection Act takes important steps toward strengthening retirement security for women and we congratulate you for your long leadership on this important issue. We look forward to working with you on strengthening retirement security for all workers and their families.
President and CEO