State Pension (Contributory)

Introduction

The State Pension (Contributory) is paid to people from the age of 66 who have enough (PRSI) contributions. It is sometimes called the old-age pension.

The qualifying age will rise to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. So:

  • If you were born on or after 1 January 1955, the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 67.
  • If you were born on or after 1 January 1961, the minimum qualifying State pension age will be 68.

The State Pension (Contributory) is not means tested. You can have other income and still get it.

As the social insurance (PRSI) conditions are very complex, you should apply for a State Pension (Contributory) if you have ever worked in Ireland and have paid PRSI contributions (stamps) at any time.

If you retire early, make sure you go on paying PRSI contributions or that you are getting credited contributions (if you are eligible). This can help you get a contributory pension when you reach 66.

If you are getting Jobseeker's Benefit (JB) and it is due to end while you are aged between 65 and 66, you can go on to getting it until you are 66, if you have 156 paid PRSI contributions.

New arrangements from 2012

People who apply for the State Pension (Contributory) after 1 September 2012 and who don’t qualify for the maximum rate of pension because of gaps in their PRSI record can be assessed under a new Total Contributions Approach and can use the new HomeCaring Periods Scheme to help them qualify for a higher rate of pension.

What is the new Total Contributions Approach (TCA)?

The new Total Contributions Approach (TCA) means that the total number of PRSI contributions you paid, instead of when they were paid, are taken into account when the DEASP assesses your application for a pension.

The TCA calculation includes the new HomeCaring Periods Scheme. The changes benefit people who spent time outside the paid workplace, while raising a family or in a caring role.

If you reached pension age on or after 1 September 2012, your pension rate can be calculated in 2 ways: using the average rule or using the new TCA – see ‘Rules’ below. The DEASP will carry out both calculations and choose whichever gives you the better rate of pension.

The National Pensions Framework has proposed that the TCA be introduced to replace the current average rule. However, legislation is required before any changes may come into effect.

Brexit and your pension

On 31 January 2020 the UK exited the EU. However, you will still get your Irish State Pension (Contributory) or UK State Pension, as before. Irish and UK citizens living in Ireland can still benefit from social insurance contributions made when working in the UK.

Rules

To qualify for a State Pension (Contributory) you must be aged 66 or over and have enough Class A, E, F, G, H, N or S social insurance contributions (PRSI). These are also called full-rate PRSI contributions.

You need to:

  1. Have paid PRSI contributions before a certain age and
  2. Have a certain number of paid PRSI contributions and
  3. Have a certain yearly average number of PRSI contributions since you first started to pay PRSI (this is the average rule) OR have a certain total number of PRSI contributions (this is the Total Contributions Approach).

1. Paid PRSI contributions before a certain age

To get a State Pension (Contributory), you must have started to pay PRSI before the age of 56.

The date you first started to pay PRSI is known as your date of entry into insurance. Your date of entry into insurance is also important when you calculate your yearly average number of PRSI contributions – see ‘Yearly average or total number of contributions’ below.

Entry into insurance

Your entry into insurance is taken as the date of the first paid PRSI contribution made when you started your first job. However, this is not always the case for people with mixed PRSI contributions or people who were self-employed.

Mixed PRSI: There are special rules if you have mixture of full-rate PRSI contributions and modified-rate contributions. Modified-rate social insurance contributions are PRSI contributions at Classes B, C and D (paid by civil and public servants).

If you have mixed PRSI contributions and you paid your first full-rate employment contribution before 6 April 1991 and before you were 56, your entry into insurance can be the date you first started to pay the full rate of PRSI, if that would be to your advantage.

If you started to pay full-rate PRSI after 6 April 1991, your entry into insurance is the date you first paid any social insurance.

Self-employed: There are special rules on entry into insurance for self-employed people. PRSI for the self-employed was introduced on 6 April 1988. If you started to pay self-employed PRSI on 6 April 1988 and had previously paid employee PRSI at any time, then your date of entry into insurance can be either 6 April 1988 or the date when you first paid employee PRSI, whichever would give you a higher rate of pension.

If you started to pay self-employed PRSI after 6 April 1988, your date of entry into insurance will be the date your first full-rate contribution was paid.

2. Number of paid contributions

The number of paid PRSI contributions you need for the State Pension (Contributory) depends on your retirement date.

If you reach pension age on or after 6 April 2012, you need to have 520 full-rate PRSI contributions (10 years’ contributions). Only 260 of the 520 contributions can be voluntary contributions.

If you reached pension age between 6 April 2002 and 5 April 2012, you needed to have 260 full-rate contributions (5 years’ contributions).

If you reached pension age before 6 April 2002, you needed 156 qualifying full-rate paid contributions (3 years’ contributions).

3. Yearly average or total number of contributions

If you reached pension age before 1 September 2012

If you reached pension age before 1 September 2012, you must have a yearly average number of PRSI contributions (paid or credited contributions) from the year you first started to pay PRSI to the end of the tax year before you reach pension age.

This is probably the most complex aspect of qualifying for a State Pension (Contributory). There is the normal average rule and the alternative average rule.

Normal average rule: The normal average rule states that you must have a yearly average of at least 10 qualifying contributions paid or credited, from the year you first entered insurance to the end of the tax year before you reach pension age. You need an average of 10 contributions a year to get a minimum pension, and you need an average of 48 a year to get the maximum pension. Your yearly average will be rounded to the nearest number. For example, 9.4 is rounded down to 9 and 47.5 is rounded up to 48.

Alternative average rule: The rule says you must have an average of 48 Class A, E, F, G, H, N or S contributions (paid or credited) for each contribution year. This rule applies from the 1979-1980 tax year to the end of the tax year before you reach pension age. This average of 48 contributions entitles you to the maximum pension. You cannot get a reduced pension when this alternative average is used.

The DEASP looks at your average in two ways. It assesses both the normal average and the alternative average. The alternative average will probably be looked at first because it is easier to assess. Most employed or formerly employed people will be able to meet the alternative average rule of 48 contributions.

If you do not have an average of 48 contributions from 1979, then the DEASP will look at the normal method of assessing the average and you may get a reduced pension. If you do not meet the alternative average, it is almost impossible for you to have an average of 48 using the normal average rule.

Working in the home and the average rule: Since 6 April 1994, the Homemakers’ Scheme has allowed the DEASP to disregard (or not take into account) up to 20 years spent as a homemaker when calculating the yearly average. The Homemaker’s Scheme can only be used when calculating your yearly average number of contributions.

The Homemakers’ Scheme applies to anyone who provides full-time care for a child under 12 or an ill person or a person with a disability aged 12 or over. It applies equally to women and men. It does not apply to time spent caring before the scheme started in 1994.

It helps you most if you have worked outside the home for a number of years and then spent a number of years as a carer.

If you reach pension age on or after 1 September 2012

If you reach pension age on or after 1 September 2012, you can be assessed using either the average rules (see above) or the new Total Contributions Approach (TCA).

The TCA, also known as the Aggregated Contributions Method, does not use a yearly average to calculate the rate of pension. Instead, the rate is based on the total number of contributions you have paid before you reach the age of 66.

The TCA calculation includes the HomeCaring Periods Scheme which can allow for up to 20 years of homemaking and caring duties. The Homecaring Periods Scheme can only be used with the TCA.

Using the TCA, you will qualify for the maximum personal rate of State Pension (Contributory) if you have 2,080 or more PRSI contributions (or 40 years’ of employment).

If you have fewer than 2,080 contributions, you may still qualify for a high rate of pension because up to 1,040 HomeCaring Periods (20 years) and up to 520 credited contributions (10 years) can be used as part of your pension calculation.

However, your combined HomeCaring Periods and credited contributions cannot total more than 1,040 (20 years).

If your combined total of paid contributions, HomeCaring Period and credited contributions is less than 2,080, you will qualify for a reduced rate of pension. For example, a combined total of 1,040 paid contributions, made up of HomeCaring Period and credited contributions, would entitle you to 50% of the maximum pension (1,040 / 2,080 = 50%).

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) has published FAQs on Qualifying for the State Pension (Contributory). These can help you to work out whether you qualify for a State Pension (Contributory).

You can read FAQs on the changes, see examples of how the changes affect pensioners (pdf) and read the Policy Options Report (pdf) on the changes at gov.ie.

Pro-rata pensions

Pro-rata pensions were introduced because some people were excluded from the social insurance system at particular times. A pro-rata pension means you get a proportion of a full pension.

Pro-rata pension for mixed insurance

You may get a pro-rata pension if you have a mixed insurance record. This can happen when you spend part of your working life in the public service (where you pay modified-rate social insurance contributions), and part in the private sector (where you pay full-rate social insurance contributions).

A career in both the public and private sectors may not give you a mixed insurance record. This is because people with incomes above certain amounts did not have to pay PRSI before 1 April 1974. In addition, certain groups (for example, Gardaí) who now pay PRSI were outside the system.

If you have mixed insurance, you may still have enough full-rate contributions to get a State Pension (Contributory). However, it depends on your exact circumstances. It is possible that one person will qualify but another, who has more contributions, will not qualify.

If you reach pension age on or after 6 April 2012 with a mixed insurance record, you need to meet all these conditions:

  • You have a minimum of 520 PRSI contributions (full-rate and modified-rate).
  • You have at least 260 full-rate paid contributions since your entry into insurance.
  • Adding together a mixture of full-rate contributions and modified-rate contributions, gives you a yearly average of 10 from the time you first entered insurance (or 1953, whichever is later) to the end of the tax year before you reach 66. This yearly average condition does not apply if the TCA (or Aggregated Contributions Method) is used.
  • You do not qualify for a pension under EU regulations or under reciprocal arrangements with other countries (or you only qualify for a pension at a lower rate than this pro-rata pension would give you).

If you meet all these conditions, you may qualify for a pension proportionate to the number of contributions that you paid at the full rate. For example, if you worked for 40 years and 10 of those years were in the private sector, you would get one-quarter of the full pension.

Pro-rata EU pension

If you have worked in Ireland and also in one or more EU states, your social insurance contributions from each EU state will be added to your Irish PRSI contributions to help you to qualify for a social welfare payment, such as a State pension.

You can find out more in our document about combining your social insurance contributions.

Any increases in your State Pension (Contributory) for a qualified adult dependant and pensioners over 80 years of age are calculated in the same way as the personal rate of pension. Increases for a qualified child are payable from one country only and, if from Ireland, are paid in full.

Bilateral social security agreements and pensions

Ireland has bilateral social security agreements with Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Japan, Republic of Korea and Quebec (which has a separate system from the rest of Canada). These agreements are broadly similar and they generally let you combine social insurance paid in Ireland with the other country to help you qualify for old-age pensions and retirement pensions.

Other pro-rata pensions

See ‘Further information’ below for more information on other pro-rata pensions that no longer apply to many people (because most people who would qualify are now over 66).

Rates

State Pension (Contributory) rates 2020 for people who qualified on or after 1 September 2012
Yearly average PRSI contributions Personal rate per week, Increase for a qualified adult* (under 66), Increase for a qualified adult* (over 66),
48 or over €248.30 €165.40 €222.50
40-47 €243.40 €157.40 €211.40
30-39

€223.20

€149.80 €200.50
20-29

€211.40

€140.10 €188.70
15-19

€161.80

€107.80 €144.50
10-14

€99.20

€65.70 €89.50

*Increases for qualified adults are means-tested payments (see 'Adult dependants' below).

State Pension (Contributory) rates in 2020 for people who qualified before 1 September 2012
Yearly average PRSI contributions Personal rate per week, Increase for a qualified adult (under 66), Increase for a qualified adult (aged 66 and over),
48 or over €248.30 €165.40 €222.50
20 - 47 €243.40 €165.40 €222.50
15 - 19 €186.20 €124.10* €166.90*
10 - 14 €124.20 €82.80* €111.20*

*These qualified adult rates apply to claims made from 6 April 2001.

From 1 September 2012, the rate band 20-47 was replaced by the bands 20-29, 30-39 and 40-47.

This pension is taxable but you are unlikely to pay tax if it is your only income.

Other benefits

You are automatically paid an extra allowance of €10 per week when you reach 80 years of age. This increase is not paid to adult dependants (see below).

People who live completely alone may be entitled to the Living Alone Increase .

You may also be eligible for other benefits. Find out more about medical cards, the Household Benefits Package and the Fuel Allowance.

Adult dependants

You can get an increase in your payment for an adult dependant (called an increase for qualified adult or an IQA). An adult dependant is your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant (a partner living with you).

Your income is not taken into account in the assessment for an IQA.

Any income your adult dependant has from employment, self-employment, savings, investments and capital (for example, any property except your own home) is taken into account. If you have joint savings or investments with your adult dependant, only half is taken into account.

If you are getting a State Pension (Contributory), the IQA is automatically paid directly to your adult dependant. This happens if the DEASP get your application after 26 September 2007.

Child dependants

You can also get an increase in your payment for child dependants (known as an Increase for a Qualified Child or IQC).

However, you cannot get an IQC with your State Pension (Contributory) if your partner has an income of over €400 a week. You get a half-rate IQC if partner earns between €310 and €400 a week. This only applies to claims made after 6 July 2012.

How to apply

Apply for your social insurance record

You can request a copy of contribution statement through MyWelfare.ie. To do this, you need your PPS (Personal Public Service) Number.

Apply for a State Pension (Contributory)

You can get an application from your local post office and your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.

You can also print the State Pension (Contributory) application form. You cannot apply online.

You should apply 3 months before you will reach the age of 66. However, if you have paid social insurance contributions in more than one country, you should apply 6 months before you will reach 66.

If you are currently getting a State Pension (Contributory) and wish to apply for an increase in your payment for your adult dependant, you should fill in form SPCQA1(pdf). Note that the increase will be paid directly to your adult dependant.

You may qualify for Supplementary Welfare Allowance if there is a delay in processing your claim.

Late State Pension (Contributory) claims can be backdated for a maximum of 6 months. You can read more in our document about late claims.

Where to apply

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Social Welfare Services
College Road
Sligo
Ireland

Opening Hours: This office does not offer a service to personal callers. All queries must be made using the online enquiry form, by telephone or in writing.
Tel: (071) 915 7100
Locall: 1890 500 000 (Note: the rates charged for using 1890 (Lo-call) numbers may vary)

PRSI Records

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

McCarter's Road
Ardaravan
Buncrana
Donegal
Ireland

Tel: (01) 471 5898 (If calling from outside Ireland please call +353 1 471 5898)
Locall: 1890 690 690 (Note: the rates charged for using 1890 (Lo-call) numbers may vary)

Further information

Pro-rata pension for self-employed people

The self-employed have been obliged to pay social insurance since 1988. Prior to that, some self-employed people were voluntarily paying insurance. Some self-employed people were already over the minimum age when they first started to pay contributions in 1988. In April 1999, a special pro-rata pension was introduced for them. Only people aged 56 or over on 6 April 1988 (born on or before 6 April 1932) qualify for this pension.

Pro-rata pensions for people with pre-1953 contributions

There is a special pro-rata pension for people with pre-1953 contributions. This pro-rata pension was introduced in May 2000. You may qualify if you have at least 520 full contributions, some of which must have been paid before 1953. Every 2 contributions paid before 1953 count as 3.

If you meet these conditions, you may get a pro-rata pension of half the normal maximum rate. The increases for a qualified adult and child are also payable at half-rate. The increase for pensioners over 80 years of age is paid in full.

Pro-rata pension for intermittent insurance

This pension no longer applies to new applicants from January 2013.

The first group for whom pro-rata pensions were arranged were those who had been in and out of insurance because of the operation of the income limit on contributions. Prior to 1974, non-manual workers were obliged to pay social insurance contributions only if their income was below a certain level. From 1 April 1974, there has been no income limit. Many people paid social insurance for a period and then ceased to pay when their income went above the limit then came back into the insurance system when the income limit was abolished in April 1974. They would not meet the usual average requirement because they ceased to pay for a while. On 14 October 1988, arrangements were made for them to qualify for a pro-rata pension.

Their average is measured in the usual way and if that average is 10 or more they get a pension in the normal way. However, if it is between 5 and 9 they may get a special partial pension which is one quarter of the maximum pension. This pro-rata pension is payable to people who meet the quite specific conditions outlined. That is, you must have a broken insurance record and have re-entered insurance in 1974 because of the removal of the income limit. If you re-entered insurance in that year for any other reason (for example, because you had previously been self-employed or out of the country), you do not meet these specific terms and you would not be eligible for this pro-rata pension.

If you qualify for this pro-rata pension you may also get the appropriate Increase for Qualified Adult for a dependent spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and an Increase for a Qualified Child.

This pro-rata pension is for State Pension (Contributory) and Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension only. Because it is easier to qualify for a Widow’s, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's Contributory Pension, the numbers who need the pro-rata pensions are very small.

Page edited: 20 February 2020