The state pension age will need to rise to 71 by 2050, experts have suggested, to ensure a sustainable ratio between workers and retirees.
Faced with falling birth rates, longer life expectancy and increasing numbers of people dropping out of the work force, the International Longevity Centre, says in countries like the UK middle-aged adults may soon need to work for longer and here’s why:
What is the current state pension age?
The state pension age is the age an adult must reach before they’re allowed to claim their state pension. This is money from the government, that forms part of the income that supports them when they retire and in older age.
The current state pension age is 66 for men and women – but two more increases are on the horizon.
Between 2026 and 2028 the state pension age will rise to 67 for those born on or after April 1960. A further rise to 68 is expected between 2044 and 2046 for those born in or after 1977, but the timing of this is subject to a further review.
However a new report out this week suggests those changes may need to move faster – or a further rise to 71 will be needed by 2050 for those born after April 1970 – to ensure an adequate and sustainable balance between workers and those who have retired in order to manage the burden of costs.
Why is the state pension age so important?
There are warnings that the ratio of workers to pensioners is dropping.
Forecasts also suggest that as people continue to live longer - the number of people over state pension age will only grow.
And yet if the age you can claim your state pension doesn’t rise in response, then the number of working-age people in the population to support those in retirement will dwindle in comparison in the years ahead.
This is also being made additionally complicated by the large numbers of adults removing themselves from the workplace as a result of ill health – which has been a significant problem since the pandemic.
This means, that by the age of 70, currently only around 50% of adults are disability-free and considered fit and healthy enough to work. Which is placing additional pressure on the remaining workers tasked with delivering the support needed.
So what is the solution?
The International Longevity Centre (ILC) has warned that the UK state pension age may have to rise to 71 and people will need to work longer by 2050, to ensure there are enough people left in the workforce to help contribute.
The ICL report explains: “But while we are facing ill health earlier in our long lives, the problem becomes even more pressing because of the exit of workers from the workforce long before they reach state pension age as it reduces the tax base to pay for pensions.
“Poor health is one of the key reasons for this and is one of the greatest barriers to economic prosperity faced by the UK today because it lowers economic output and increases taxes.”
Other solutions, suggests the report, is a greater focus on improving the long-term health of all workers in order to keep more adults in the workplace for longer. This, says the report, could help keep the current state pension age below 70 from 2040 ‘for at least a few years’.
The study adds: “Encouraging people to work for longer allows countries to adapt to an ageing society especially if accompanied by a well-funded pension system as a bulwark against poverty.
“Our research also suggests a greater focus is needed on preventing ill-health not just in old age but from early age through adulthood. We know, for instance, that the longest health spans are in countries which spend most on prevention and adult immunisation.”
The Pensions Act 2014 requires the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to regularly review the state pension age.
The Government last year announced plans to have a further review after the next general election and within two years of the next Parliament, to reconsider the proposed rise to age 68 and when that might happen.
This, say ministers, will give officials time to consider the latest data on life expectancy, population projections and the impact on the labour market of measures which have been brought in to tackle high levels of inactivity.
Speaking last year pensions secretary Mel Stride explained: “It’s essential the State Pension remains sustainable and fair across the generations.
“Our balanced approach will help achieve this and ensure we continue to provide security and dignity in retirement for millions of people across the country.”