Should The UK Have A Range Of Retirement Ages?

1 December 2016

older-worker That's the view of the UK's former pensions minister Ros Altmann. With recent revelations that those people in their twenties will almost certainly have to wait until they are 70 to claim their state pension, there is no doubt that something needs to be done to shake up the system but the question is, what?

It is easy to see why the government sees continually raising the state pension age as an effective way to cut spending on pensions. But it’s perhaps not as clear cut as they think because Baroness Altmann believes that such simplistic thinking can be potentially damaging to particular social groups:

"The justification for such an increase is based on forecasts of rising average life expectancy. But just using average life expectancy as a yardstick ignores significant differences in longevity across British society. For example, people living in less affluent areas, or who had lower paid or more physically demanding careers, or started work straight from school, have a higher probability of dying younger. Continually increasing state pension ages, and making such workers wait longer for pension payments to start, prolongs significant social disadvantage."

It's clear therefore that whilst there are such big differences in mortality rates across the UK and there are still a significant amount of people who don't live to claim their state pensions, that the continual increase in the state pension age actually compounds social inequality.

Instead of using such a 'blunt' instrument as continual state pension age rises, Baroness Altmann calls for a complete rethink on retirement:

"In fact, just reforming state pensions is not the best way to cope with an ageing population. It is important to rethink retirement too. Those who can and want to work longer could boost their own lifetime incomes and future pensions, and also the spending power of the economy and national output, if more were done to facilitate and encourage later life working. Having more older workers in the economy, especially given the demographics of the western world, is a win-win for all of us. Even a few years of part-time work, before full-time retirement, can benefit individuals and the economy. But this should not be achieved by forcing everyone to wait longer for a state pension and ignoring the needs of those groups who cannot do so."

Will we see the government backtrack on intended state pension rises in the future? It's extremely unlikely. However, what we will have to see is more creative thinking about retirement provision coming into play. We've seen how innovative ideas can work such as the introduction of auto enrolment which has seen millions more people now saving for retirement. Now it's time for some more innovative ideas like this.

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    • Sp avatar Thu Tieu

      Thu is Marketing Executive at Smart Pension and is responsible for online communications and editorials.