Proposals for pension age rise to 75 criticised

Many Scots in poorer areas with lower life expectancy will ‘never’ be able to retire under think tank proposal

Tuesday 20th August 2019

A proposal by a think tank linked to the Conservative party to increase the retirement age from the current 66 to 75 over the next sixteen years has been criticised by charities and health experts.

Age Scotland says the proposal from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) would see around half of men in Glasgow - where average life expectancy stands at 73 for men and 78 for women - die before they could draw their pension.

The charity says the change would have a ‘devastating’ effect on the poorest older people and increase poverty ‘massively’.

Meanwhile, healthy life expectancy – the years people can expect to live in good health and therefore work – should also be considered, according to experts at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

A boy born in Scotland in 2015 is anticipated to have a healthy life expectancy of 62.3 years and a girl 62.6 years.

They say the proposals “would not be likely to support health and wellbeing in later years.”

In a paper published this weekend, CSJ, which is headed by the former minister Iain Duncan Smith, argues the retirement age needs to be hiked from the current 67 to 75 by 2035 so it remains ‘sustainable’.

Authors say the increase should only take place after new support measures to help older people stay in work are introduced.

However Peter Seaman, of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, warns that increases to life expectancy might not continue.

A report recently found a three-decades-long trend of life expectancy improvements has stalled because of drug deaths and heart disease.

The Glasgow academic points to disparities in life expectancy between the richest and poorest Scots that mean Scots in the wealthiest areas can expect to life 13 years more than their less well-off counterparts, and women for just under ten years more.  

Mr Seaman says: “There would therefore be implications for social justice and fairness between population experiencing different levels of deprivation in the proposal to universally raise the pension age.

“Whereas having more people living into old age should be seen as an asset to society and citizen participation in later years is likely to increase the wellbeing, independence and health of this population, creating financial vulnerability through the limiting of universal benefits such as pensions would not be likely to support health and wellbeing in later years.

“Current thinking points to recognising the contribution people in later years can make through other forms of value such as volunteering, providing informal support and care beyond paid work.”

Brian Sloan, chief executive of Age Scotland, said: “Raising the State Pension age to 75 would be a retrograde step that would have a devastating impact on Scotland’s poorest older people.

“Lower paid workers and women are already less likely to have a private pension, meaning they rely solely on their State Pension to live on in retirement. Many are unable to work later due to health issues or caring responsibilities, and this would plunge hundreds of thousands more into poverty.”

He continued: “Our State Pension is already one of the lowest in the developed world, and we need to see more support for older people, not less. Older people have paid into the system throughout their working lives, and should not spend their later lives living in poverty or struggling to work despite health problems.

“At the same time, we recognise that many people do already choose to work past the traditional retirement age, either due to choice or financial necessity. Many employers are missing out by not supporting older workers with career development, health support and flexible working arrangements.”