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TUC - Extending Working Lives

The TUC has published thier report into later working life, entitled 'Extending Working Lives - How to support older workers.' The executive summary can be read below and you can download the document.

Executive summary

Recent decades have seen increasing numbers of men and women working into later life. So far this century, average retirement ages have increased by approximately two years for men and three years for women, to reach 65.2 and 64.3 years respectively.

At the same time, the government has started to increase state pension ages, first bringing women into line with men, and then raising it for both sexes. The state pension age for men and women hit 66 in October 2020 and is scheduled to reach 67 by 2028, with further increases scheduled.

In many ways this trend of lengthening working lives is a positive development. It reflects the fact that current generations are living longer than previous generations, and extending working lives has a key part to play in ensuring workers can maintain a decent standard of living in old age.

But raising the state pension age is a particularly blunt tool for bringing this about. Many workers already leave the labour market before reaching the current state pension age, either voluntarily or involuntarily. While many people choose to retire before reaching state pension age, one in eight are forced out by ill health, and others are unable to fit work around caring responsibilities.

These issues are unequally distributed across the working population. People who leave low paying or physically intensive sectors before the state pension age are six times more likely to do so because of ill health than those working in the professions. Women and black and ethnic minority workers in their 60s are far more likely than men to say they are not working because of caring responsibilities.

The chances of being forced out of the labour market early also vary greatly from region to region. On average across the UK, one in eight people leave the labour market due to ill health, but this rises to one in six in the North East, and more than one in five in Northern Ireland.

But perhaps the most shocking disparities relate to the impact of poverty on healthy life expectancy. Under the current timetable, by 2030 women in the most deprived parts of the country can expect to spend more than 16 years in ill health by the time the reach state pension age.

The Covid-19 pandemic has widened many of these inequalities. The economic impact of the pandemic is also likely to fall particularly painfully on older workers, who are more likely than all but the youngest workers to have been furloughed. Those older workers who lose their jobs are twice as likely to become long-term unemployed as younger workers.

To counter this, we need an immediate and ambitious programme to help older workers who lose their job get back into employment. And those older people who are unable to remain in the Labour market in these challenging conditions should be allowed to access their state pension early.

In the longer term, a broad set of measures will be needed to extend working lives without further widening inequalities. This must include:

  • More support to help workers who need or choose to work later in life identify and get access to training or resources they need, and better rights to work flexibly.

  • Reform to the social security system so that it provides an adequate safety net for workers of all ages, and with increased flexibility around how retirement age benefits are accessed.

  • Shelving planned increases to the state pension age beyond the current level of 66 and setting up a cross-party commission to establish a new consensus on the state pension age that takes into account trends in longevity improvements and health inequalities across the population.

You can download the full report below.

Older workers report final
Download PDF • 542KB


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