Female members of NEST are three times more likely than men to be under the auto-enrolment (AE) eligibility threshold, but exhibit equal savings behaviour, the provider has found.
According to a study, published today (26 September) - and conducted by the master trust's research arm, NEST Insight, and Vanguard - the percentage of female members earning under the £10,000 lower earnings threshold was 14%, and 5% for men.
The figure includes members under the AE threshold who were given the choice to opt-in or were enrolled by their employer with member agreement.
The same research also looked at the gender differences in retirement savings behaviour for its eight million members as at 31 December 2018, in the second report of its kind, titled How the UK Saves.
It found that there was generally no difference in savings behaviour between men and women, despite men being twice as likely to earn over £25,000, at 32%.
NEST's membership is made up of 48% female and 52% male members, with the average median age of members recorded at 40 across both genders. Average annual earnings, where reported, were £17,545 and £22,085 for female and male members respectively.
The percentage of members paying additional contributions was 50% for both men and women, with average annual contributions at £1,109 and £845 respectively.
The additional contributions would be above the minimum required, which is currently set at a total of 8%, with most employers requiring 5% from employees.
Furthermore, for incomes between £10,000 and £14,999, women's median account balances were 16% higher than men's, at £273. However, for incomes over £25,000, women's median account balances were 5% lower at £1,168.
Overall, approximately four in ten members were "continuous contributors" and remained actively contributing on a regular basis to the scheme for a full 12 months. For those at the AE threshold which were continuous contributors, pots for females were 2% higher than males, at £198.
On the other end of the spectrum, figures for men and women on average were broadly the same. For members earning more than £25,000, women had an account balance £1,564 on average, while men saved £1,610.
NEST Insight assistant director Matthew Blakstad said: "We need robust research like this to help tackle the challenges facing NEST members and other defined contribution savers.
"That's why we set up NEST Insight. We want our research to lead to practical solutions that will help everyone get a good outcome in retirement regardless of gender, job, education, home life or financial situation.
"AE has helped the industry take a huge leap towards that shared goal, but there's more work to be done. This issue is at the forefront for the pensions industry and policy makers, and we hope that this new evidence will provide useful insights into how we can help close the gender pensions gap."
The research follows NEST's authorisation by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) earlier this month, as part of a wider regime to boost governance standards of master trusts.
Vanguard senior strategist Will Allport added that, to address the shortfall of female retirement wealth relative to male, there should be a refocus on the industry's attention on the differences in average earnings and working patterns between genders.
He added: "Furthermore, lowering the earnings threshold for AE eligibility, or making contributions on the first pound of earnings rather than adhering to the lower earnings limit, would both help to narrow the disparity between male and female retirement wealth."
Newton’s Curt Custard considers the investment outlook for 2021 and the implications for DC schemes
Master trusts’ investment strategies have grown and become more sophisticated over the last three years, but “growing pains” are hindering progress, according to the Defined Contribution Investment Forum (DCIF).
More than half of BlackRock’s flagship UK defined contribution (DC) default fund’s assets will be invested in ESG strategies by June 2021.
Graeme Bold says the right communications can improve both the level of savings and the outcomes for savers.