What are your plans for retirement? Spend more time with family? Move abroad? Start that novel? You can be prepared to bet that for most people disability and infirmity aren’t high on their list. But a report released by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that more than half a million people approaching the State Pension Age (SPA) are simply too ill to work.
The TUC’s findings are sobering to say the least. As things stand only 54% of men aged 60-64 and 62% of women aged 56-60 are currently in work, despite being too young to claim their state pensions. Of those approaching the SPA, nearly two-fifths are economically inactive, with 470,325 people are out of work for reasons of long-term sickness and disability. Given that for the next generation the SPA will be the best part of a decade higher these figures seem set only to rise as time passes. The TUC report makes a stark point that this will leave many in a limbo state – as it puts it: ‘too young for a pension and too old to work’.
It poses some very serious questions for the raising of the SPA. With already very high levels of long-term illness amongst the working populace, with musculoskeletal and mental health problems ranking by far the most prevalent, it seems unlikely that the fitness of our workforce will improve in the face of a longer working life. Rather than injecting additional revenue, the issue could end up putting an even greater strain on the economy in terms of disability benefits and increased healthcare bills. And whilst the Government will have achieved its aims in terms of reducing the pension deficit, the real cost will be paid by a generation that has spent nigh on 50 years contributing to the economy.
Is this a cost worth paying? Only time will tell.