United Kingdom

State pension age increase not 'viable' if public health doesn't improve

February 2016


Brits are not 'healthy enough' to work much beyond 60, a leading economist has warned, despite government plans to increase state pension age to 68.

Government figures show that women aged between 50 to 64 are statistically 'more likely' to be in full time employment than they were 30 years ago, whilst the employment rate for those over 65 has doubled in the same thirty-year span, from 4.9 per cent to 10.2 per cent. In addition, the proportion of 70 to 74 year olds in employment has doubled over the past decade from 5.5 per cent to 9.9 per cent.

Mark Pearson, senior analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned there is a 'rapid decline' in health for those between the ages of 60 and 70.

His comments follow the publication of the OECD Pensions at a Glance 2015 report which found that the average Brit retires before the current state pension age (65 for men and 62.5 for women).

"Frankly, our population is not healthy enough to work that long [68 years]. When you actually look at the health status of people between 60 and 70, you see a very rapid decline in the UK... We are talking about a pension age of 68 and we almost certainly do not have the health to make that viable," he said.

According to Matthew Lawrence, Head of Broking & Health and Risk Proposition at Aon Employee Benefits, older workers tend to remain in the workplace for longer, particularly in the UK, where the concept of a normal retirement 'has all but disappeared'.

"There is certainly correlation between an individual ageing and being a comparatively worse health risk," Lawrence said.

The Aon Benefits and Trends Survey 2015 found that three quarters of survey respondents of employers believed they were responsible for influencing employee health and changing behaviours.

"Positively influencing some of the key behaviour and lifestyle risks is a must," Lawrence continued. "Poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol almost always result in chronic illness including obesity, diabetes, cancer and depression. Employers must be proactive: focussing on ways to manage these conditions will not in itself address the issue. There has to be a change in approach in order to achieve a sustainable outcome, protecting health and not just treating ill health."

Employees' financial ability has also been identified as an issue. A survey by consultancy firm Portus Consulting found that 66 per cent of UK staff intend to work beyond 65 with nearly three quarters of this group citing affordability as being the reason for working later than expected. In addition, a poll by LV= insurance found that 45 per cent of couples were reliant on both incomes, whilst 14 per cent of couples said they struggled financially despite both partners working. 34 per cent admitted having to make 'substantial lifestyle changes' if one or the other was unable to work.

Lawrence added: "Employers should be joining up their financial health strategy with their physical and mental health approach, perhaps with financial education initiatives so employees can understand their financial situation better. The ultimate aim for every employer should be that all their employees have a good chance of reaching their target retirement age on a strong financial footing and in good health."



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