OLDER WORKER OPPORTUNITY ACT WILL BOOST RETIREMENT SECURITY FOR WOMEN
Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Ranking Member of the Senate's Special Committee on Aging, participated in a hearing today to examine the gender gap in retirement saving. Kohl noted that his Older Worker Opportunity Act (S.1826) legislation could serve as part of the solution.
According to Census Bureau data, women receive about 53 percent of the retirement income received by men and disproportionably rely on Social Security in their retirement, which is the only source of income for over one-quarter of single elderly women.
"Retirement security is often thought of as a "three-legged stool" -- Social Security, employer pensions, and private saving.," Kohl said. "But it's clear that for too many women facing retirement, that stool is shaky. We must strengthen all three legs, and also promote a fourth leg -- the opportunity to continue working past traditional retirement age for those who need to do so."
Older women are less likely to participate in the labor force today, making saving for retirement more difficult. First, women are more likely to seek part-time and flexible work schedules -- and companies are less likely to provide pension plans for part-time workers. Second, many are responsible for caring for elderly or disabled relatives, making it difficult to continue working.
Kohl's bipartisan legislation would provide tax incentives for businesses to hire and retain older workers, offer them part-time and flextime opportunities, and include them in the company's pension and health insurance plans. It also seeks to ease the burden on caregivers -- who more often tend to be women -- by giving a tax credit to workers for the care of their senior family members.
In her testimony, Barbara Kennelly, President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, lauded the Older Worker Opportunity Act as "a tremendous step in the right direction."
Kennelly added: "[Kohl's] bill focuses on the issues that are key to both employers and older workers, in an effort to address the concerns of both partners in the employment equation I believe this legislation could go a long way toward paving the way for significant increases in older worker employment."
Kohl introduced the Older Worker Opportunity Act, along with Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), following an Aging Committee hearing he chaired in April 2005 that highlighted major barriers that prevent older Americans from working longer. The legislation also expands job training opportunities for older Americans, provides an extension of COBRA health coverage for older workers, and creates a Federal task force to identify additional barriers that make it difficult for older Americans to work longer if they so choose.