Every year, more and more people in the UK are working past the state retirement age. So I started thinking, should there be a prescribed age, or should people get to choose exactly when they retire?
A recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the number of people working after state pension age has gone up from 753,000 in 1993 to 1.4m in 2011. This means an average 12% of people who currently work fall into that category (14.1% in London and the South East, 8.2% in the North East).
Two-thirds of these post-retirement-age workers are employed in part-time jobs, but the fact remains that they’re continuing to toil beyond the point where they could legitimately put their feet up and take a well-earned break.
The ONS speculates that improved health and well-being might lay behind the increased number, combined with a desire for older workers to ‘remain active in society’. However, it also acknowledges that ‘financial pressures’ may play a part too.
Can one size fit all?
We’ve talked about this topic before when the government accelerated the rise in state pension age for women and brought it forward for men. I wondered if one size really did fit all, or if it might be better to let people decide for themselves when they’re ready to call it a day?
My colleague Martyn Saville had a different take on retiring later, arguing that people who stayed working later prevented those at the other end of the job ladder from getting on the first rung. ‘Repellent’ and ‘morally indefensible’ were a few of the comments he received on his post, although others seemed to think he might have a point.
Personally, I rather like the idea of a choice. If part-time work after retirement age could make the shock of stopping work less abrupt, perhaps we should encourage employers to make part-time work available earlier for those who want to ease off.
Retirement ages on the up
We should also bear in mind that the minimum pension age is increasing anyway, so rather than discussing the choices of those aged 60 or 65, we’re increasingly thinking about those aged 66, 67 or 68.
At a conference the other day, I heard a speaker (seriously) suggest that today’s children might need to keep working until they are 75 or older simply to save up enough pension to retire. Is this the harsh reality that underpins this whole debate? I may want to retire early – but can I really afford to?