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Speaking during the Autumn Statement in December 2013, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, confirmed plans which would mean that people should spend a third of their adult lives in retirement.
The 2013 Draft Pensions Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, proposes five-year reviews of the State Pension Age (SPA) with the aim of maintaining the proportion of adult life spent in receipt of a state pension based on increasing life expectancy.
In the UK, reductions in mortality have been accompanied by increased life expectancies over the last century. Between 1911 to 2010, life expectancy in the UK has increased from 49.4 to 78.5 for men and from 53.1 to 82.4 for women. The Chancellor confirmed that the date when the state pension age rises to 68 will be brought forward to the mid-2030s - it had not been due to kick in until 2046 - and the state pension age could rise to 69 by the late 2040s.
A growing number of countries are beginning to link pension age with increases in life expectancy to address the financial impact of an ageing population. Across the OECD, countries are raising retirement ages as life expectancy increases. By 2050, the average state pension age will rise from 63 for men and 62 for women to almost 65 for both sexes. A number of countries in the European Union have linked pension benefits with life expectancy including Spain, Italy, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece and the Netherlands.
It has been estimated that, from 2007 to 2032, the public expenditure on pensions and related benefits will rise from 4.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 6.2%.
But whilst increasing the State Pension Age appears to be a logical step to addressing the financial challenges of an ageing population, the complex interplay of factors impacting on retirement and workforce participation cannot be ignored.
Our event considered some of these challenges such as:
How can increasing the State Pension Age be fair when significant numbers of poorer citizens will reach this age in ill-health (or not at all)?
Which groups lose out most by an increase in state pension age?
How can we respond to the fairness challenge?
The appropriateness of different measures of life expectancy (cohort life expectancy; period life expectancy; healthy life expectancy; disability free life expectancy).
Will increasing the State Pension Age reduce the dependency ratio and extend working lives?
What will be the fiscal impact if an increasing number older people find themselves unable to work and needing to access working age benefits?
At the event, we heared from the Minister for Pensions, Steve Webb MP; ILC-UK Research Fellow, Ben Franklin; Dr Craig Berry, ILC-UK Fellow and Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield; Camilla Williamson, Age UK’s Development and Support Manager, Knowledge Transfer; Professor John MacInnes, a social demographer and Professor of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.