The social division of welfare literature emphasises the extent to which occupational-pension provision is distributed on the basis of class and gender. As most previous commentators have at least implicitly recognised, however, a significant proportion of less advantaged people are covered. This paper argues that the patterns of access and their distributional consequences must be considered more systematically, and that in this context, the diversity of employers’ pension schemes are investigated. When this is done, it emerges that in the United Kingdom, the spread of occupational provision beyond the most privileged workers means that some vulnerable individuals avoid poverty in retirement. At the same time, however, the main determinant of which less advantaged people are covered and which not is chance. While class and gender are important predictors of who receives occupational pensions, access for the disadvantaged arises mainly as an accident of an employment decision made for reasons unrelated to savings or pensions criteria. This paper argues that the implication is that unsustainable justice-based arguments are currently used by policy makers to sanction the current distribution of UK pension incomes. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of the findings for the appropriateness of recent UK policy proposals and for international debates about pension reform
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