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Is it right to raise the retirement age?

The Tories want more of us to stay in work for longer – how do you feel about not seeing your state pension until you're 66?

Published on October 6th 2009.

Is it right to raise the retirement age?

The Conservatives announced plans last night to raise the state retirement age to 66 in 2016 – a full decade earlier than Labour would – in order to cut the country's budget deficit. It would mean that all men and women under the age of 58 will be expected to work longer before they can receive the state pension.

The state pension age is currently 65 for men and 60 for women. Under Labour, the state retirement age for women will increase by 12 months every two years from 2010 to 2020 to bring it in line with men. So by 2016, it will already be 63 for women. The Conservative's proposals mean that one year would be added to the retirement age for men, and three years for women. David Cameron clarified this morning that those extra three years will be added gradually.

The Tories estimate this will save £13bn a year. It's much needed money for a country suffering from a huge burden of debt, and they say it reflects the rise in life expectancy. Shadow chancellor George Osborne will tell the Conservative party conference today: “This is another one of those trade-offs any honest government has to confront. All parties accept that with an ageing population, the state pension will have to rise.”

With many people living well into their 80s and 90s, is retirement too long now anyway? Some older workers welcome the opportunity to continue their career; jobs provide a sense of identity, purpose, and a social network, as well as a stronger financial situation. Older workers have experience and skills that younger ones may lack – it makes sense to keep hold of them as long as possible.

But not everyone wants to work way into their 60s. Manual workers in particular may struggle because of the physical demands of their jobs. And what about those people who dislike their jobs? Not everyone has a career that interests and inspires them. Is it fair to keep our noses to the grindstone rather than giving us a well deserved rest?

A report by the Office for National Statistics released in 2008 estimated that life expectancy for boys born in Manchester is just 73 – the shortest in England, while for girls born here it is 78 – a full nine years lower than the life expectancy of girls born in affluent parts of London. So a male Mancunian retiring at 66 can maybe expect just seven years of leisure after up to 50 years of grafting?

Perhaps it's not the retirement age that's the issue but the concept of retirement itself. Traditionally, people have worked full time up to state pension age, then abruptly stopped. They suddenly have a lot more time and a lot less money – not always a good combination if you're looking for a happy life.

Nowadays, more older people are opting to gradually reduce their working hours instead of stopping work altogether. More employers need to enable them to do this – it's well known that the retail sector welcomes older workers, but not everyone wants to work in Marks and Spencers or B&Q, particularly if they've spent their lives becoming highly skilled in another job.

In the meantime, should we be forced to work longer for the good of the economy, or is it unfair to expect more from an already over-worked nation? UK citizens work longer hours than most other European countries – is extending our working lives making a bad situation worse?

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18 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

ADOctober 6th 2009.

I'm afraid that this article mis represntents the tory plans. The retirement age for women will not increase by three years in 2016. The conservatives have been deliberately vague about how the changes will efect women, saying something like "move towards 66". David Cameron has said a Jump to 66 for women is "out of the question" Its also wrong to suggest that this change would allow people to work longer, Employers would still be able to enforce retirement at age 65 unless other changes are also made to the law, neither would raising the retirement age force people to work longer, they would still be able to retire before 65 only they would have to save money for themselves to cover the year before the statepension kicks in, which is what many millions of UK savers currently do in order to retire early. As to life expectancy you can compare some parts of manchester with london, but you could also compare some parts of manchester with others, I'd bet the residents of didsbury live longer than those from moss side. They would of course get more state pension as it would be paid for longer but eaqualy they probably pay allot more tax. Its great that mancon are willing to invite debate on the issue but the facts in the article that frame that debate need to be correct first.

BlameOctober 6th 2009.

Why oh why oh why oh why do films get it so right, and reality lag so far behind? Soylent Green and Logans run are the way to go. Nuff said

EditorialOctober 6th 2009.

AD – all of the facts in this article are correct and it does not misrepresent Tory plans. With regard to the introduction of the higher state pension age for women, it quite clearly says: 'David Cameron clarified this morning that those extra three years will be added gradually'. It makes sense to equate a higher state pension age with a longer working life. It is also correct to assume that people will be forced to work for longer - many people can't afford to retire before they receive their state pension. Your point about life expectancy is interesting but it doesn't follow that the facts about life expectancy in this article are incorrect.

ADOctober 6th 2009.

The article includes the sentence "The Conservative's proposals mean that [by 2016] one year would be added to the retirement age for men, and three years for women" This is not what they are proposing. You also ask the question "should we be forced to work longer" the word forced is not appropriate we are not foced to work, a great many choose not to and while there are people who as they aproach retirement cant afford to retire early because they dont have the savings that is not the same as being forced to do something. Fair enough on life expectancy (my bad) but that doesnt mean that somhow mancunians are going to be paying for southerners longer retirements which I do think is suggested in your article.

AnonymousOctober 6th 2009.

Can you phrase the question more impartially please?Of course no one actually wants to work longer, however we may need to.It's embarassingly biased.

Davidb3October 6th 2009.

get a grip! this legislation has already been proposed and made law by our current Labour lot without a peep of protest! the only issue is when not if! it is only a couple of weeks ago that a proposal was rejected to make it illegal to force people to retire at 65, there's just no pleasing the professional moaners!!

JonOctober 6th 2009.

Anonymous the last thing I want to consider is retirement and won't do when I'm 66 either - unless of course I'm dribbling in a hospital, but that's different. I want to work until I drop, give myself meaning, give myself a reason to live off my wits. I've seen too many aged relations lose their minds through inactivity. God save me from golf courses, cruise ships and the empty dalliance of indolently amusing myself until the man with the big scythe comes chopping by. The question is spot on.

Davidb3October 6th 2009.

on reflection, wouldn't it make far more sense and accomodate everyones wishes if the retirement age was left as is, with an option to continue working for up to an additional 5yrs with an increased pension based on the extra contributions? this way its a win win for all groups.

AnonymousOctober 6th 2009.

To be honest Jon, I probably worded it wrong. However the question is biased and then the follow on 'The Tories want more of us to stay in work for longer – how do you feel about not seeing your state pension until you're 66?' is even worse. The retirement age question is a question for society and not a party political one. Of all the conference related issues that could have been raised this week, it's a shame it was this one.

The Whalley RangerOctober 6th 2009.

Correct: the government pension will be a pittance, if it isn't already...anyone with half a brain should sit down and start saving now. There will be no plan B. Ditch your Skybox, put the cash into a personal pension plan and you will have £20,000 in 25 years! simples.

ADOctober 6th 2009.

The basic state pension will be no more or less a pitance than it is today as both parties propose to link it to earnings instead of to inflation. Whalley Ranger is right the only way to reitire in comfort is to provide for yourself by investing money for your retirement.

Mrs BeetonOctober 6th 2009.

Have one pint less every night, put the money in the bank and in 35 yrs you will have £116,500. Eat more pies, drink less ale!

RICHARD NASHOctober 6th 2009.

Dose of reality folks ! the country is broke ! Labour have spent up , spent every last penny as i am writing this piece i am watcing sky news and the govt are giving 12 million to Liberia !!! you couldnt make it up ! on the same program a 106 year old woman is being kicked out of an old peoples home in Wolverhampton ! this govt cares about just about every other tom dick and harry apart from our elderley! whichever govt gains power next year they will have to raise the retirement age to at least 70 ! and before some do gooder lefty jumps down my throat your welcome to check all of my above facts!

The Whalley RangerOctober 6th 2009.

50% of today's pensioners supplement their basic state pension by means tested benefits. Ergo, there is no working pension system. It doesn't matter how long the government says you need to work in future. It's irrelevant.

scoteeeOctober 6th 2009.

is it home time yet?

bonzoOctober 6th 2009.

i heard we spend 200m a week wasting money in subsidies to the eu ! cant we do something to help our pensioners instead ? this Labour party are too busy filling there own bank accounts with there expense claims !

european citizenOctober 6th 2009.

What do you mean 'waste £200m'? Who do you think funded the Market Street refurbishment, Urbis, Manchester City Art Gallery, the Lowry, the Imperial War Museum to name but a few. You would be still heating with coal and eating 'beautiful british butties' for lunch if it wasn't for the EU!

BlameOctober 6th 2009.

There's no wasted money, only wasted people. All hail president Blair!

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