British workers will soon need to work until the age of 71, experts claim amid UK's aging population

6 February 2024, 19:47 | Updated: 6 February 2024, 19:49

A mechanical engineer works in an industrial factory. Experts suggest the UK pension age could rise to 71
A mechanical engineer works in an industrial factory. Experts suggest the UK pension age could rise to 71. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The British pension age may soon need to rise to 71, experts have warned amid growing life expectancy and falling birthrates.

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The current pension age of 66 is due to rise to 67 between May 2026 and March 2028, and will hit 68 in 2044.

But with an aging population and its greater burden on the state pension, researchers are warning this will not be enough and, instead, anyone born after 1970 will need to work until 71.

This may have to increase even further, experts say, if people continue to exit the workforce before they reach the state pension age.

"In the UK, state pension age would need to be 70 or 71 compared with 66 now, to maintain the status quo of the number of workers per state pensioner," Les Mayhew, author of the report State Pension Age and Demographic Change said.

"But if you bring preventable ill health into the equation, that would have to increase even more,”

Senior couple of people with walking sticks crossing a road in the UK
Senior couple of people with walking sticks crossing a road in the UK. Picture: Alamy

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Mayhew has previously advised the government on the state pension age in his previous role as a civil servant and in his current role as professor of statistics at Bayes Business School.

Only 50 per cent of adults aged 70 in England and Wales are considered disability-free and able to work.

This smaller working and inactive population reduces the tax base for the state pension.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said pensioner benefits will cost the UK government £136 billion between 2023 and 2024. Almost all of this, £124 billion will be spent on state pensions.

However, other analysts said the government should look at other cost-saving measures before raising the state pension age.

Pensioners sitting on the beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK
Pensioners sitting on the beach at Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK. Picture: Alamy

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Jonathan Cribb, the associate director and head of retirement at the Institute of Fiscal Studies, said he did not disagree with the need to raise the pension age in the future, but said doing so without reviewing other options was not “realistic or equitable”.

“It would disproportionately impact poorer individuals whose ill-health means they have shorter lives, and so who receive pensions for less time,” he said.

A spokesperson for the UK government said: "We have committed £70million in employment and skills support for the over-50s, which has seen an extra 54,000 over-50s added to company payrolls.

"Our £2.5billion Back to Work plan is supporting people to stay fit and find work, in addition to £14.1billion to improve health services to help people live longer, healthier lives.”

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