Disability and poor health are preventing nearly half a million people who are approaching retirement from working, according to a TUC analysis of official labour-market data.
The research finds that the employment rates for those approaching the current state pension age (SPA) are low, with just 54 per cent of men aged 60-64 and 62 per cent of women aged 56-60 in work. The TUC is concerned that plans to raise the SPA – to 66 for both men and women by October 2020, and to 67 by April 2028 – will only exacerbate the problem, with the creation of a new limbo zone, in which people are too young for a pension, but too old to work.
Government figures show that nearly two in five of those approaching the SPA are economically inactive (defined as someone who has not sought work in the last four weeks), with long-term sickness and disability cited as the main reasons for not working.
People formerly working in skilled trades, heavy industry and low-skilled jobs are most likely to be inactive as a result of disability and ill health, while managers are far more likely to be inactive owing to early retirement.
Nearly 100,000 more people are currently inactive on account of long-term sickness and disability (470,325) compared with the number taking early retirement (375,368).
With nearly half a million people approaching the SPA already unable to work as a result of ill health, the TUC believes the Government is wrong to raise the pension threshold without first addressing the health inequalities that are forcing many people out of work before they reach the age at which they are able to draw their pension.
The TUC is also concerned that planned rises in the SPA are being accompanied by tighter controls on social-security support that will force many older people to actively look for work, or risk losing their benefits. The organisation believes the Government should instead focus on tackling age discrimination, extending access to flexible working, and supporting those who are actively seeking work to re-enter the jobs market.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “While more people are working past their state pension age, often as the only way to get a decent retirement income, a far greater number of older people are unable to work due to ill health, or because they are trapped in long-term unemployment.
“Accelerating the rise in the state pension age will simply push more people into poverty. We will end up with a new limbo zone for people in their mid-60s who are too young for a pension, but too old to have any realistic chance of a job. With a benefits system that gets meaner and tougher each year, even 66-year-olds who have worked for decades before stopping work will be treated as work-shy scroungers.
“By raising the state pension age and ignoring persistent health inequalities, the Government risks overseeing a dramatic rise in pensioner poverty.”
The full TUC analysis is available at http://bit.ly/RYESZJ
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