Looking at a Local Retirement System from a Different Angle

2007 MAR - Average Pension On A Gender Basis - In studying and reporting on average pensions at the local level, we have never incorporated pensions by gender, nor separated disability pensions from superannuation pensions. The most recent actuarial data of the Plymouth County Retirement System, as prepared by Buck Consultants, does give such a breakdown and enables  us to chart pensions on both a gender and disability basis.

There is some risk in publishing data in this form. The average
pension for a woman in Plymouth County is $9,987 while for a man it is
$20,200. This could give fuel to the argument that women are underpaid.

However, there are several legitimate reasons for this
discrepancy. Almost all of the cafeteria workers in the schools are
women who work shorter hours and, therefore, earn less. Survivors are
also included in the retiree data. Most survivors are widows collecting
survivors allowances in various categories that by statute are unfairly
low. But pension laws are set by the Legislature, not Plymouth County.
And then we have the many clerical workers who for the most part are
women. These jobs do not pay as much as public safety workers such as
police, firefighters and correction officers or, for that matter, DPW
There is no discrimination argument. A women working in public safety
receives the same pay as her male counterpart and a man doing clerical
work receives the same pay as his female counterpart. Teachers are not
included in this data. They are members of the Teachers’ Retirement

The chart for disability pensions shows a closer correlation. The average for a women is $18,285 and $24,639 for a man.

An accidental disability retiree receives a 72% pension plus an
annuity, the total of which cannot exceed 75%. There is also a
provision for an ordinary disability pension (not job related). For a
veteran with ten or more years service it is 50% of salary. For a
non-veteran the statute is very weak and needs improvement. A person
under age 55 is calculated on an age 55 basis. For a Group 1 worker
with 10 years service the pension would only be 15% of their salary.

“I believe if you did a gender breakdown of pensions, I think
you would find a similar male-female difference in most retirement
systems with the exception of the Teachers’ System,” says Association
President Ralph White.

“Salaries are a huge factor in determining pensions, and we as
an organization can’t do anything about salaries. Some would argue that
men have a greater opportunity to work at jobs that pay higher
salaries. Again, if true, this is a social issue. Perhaps we’re
stirring the pot in deviating from the norm by publishing  a board’s
pension breakdown by gender. But, as our members know, we’ve never been
afraid of stirring the pot a little.”

Editor’s Note - The Plymouth County Retirement System consists
of 23 towns and 29 smaller units such as housing authorities and school
districts (non-teachers). The largest unit is the County itself with
the House of Correction being the County’s largest employer.