‘State pension age needs to rise to 71 by 2050’

Rising longevity means the state pension age will need to rise to 71 by 2050 due to a mismatch between the working population and older people, with ill health playing a big role, according to the ILC.

Middle aged man, clutching his shoulder whilst a doctor examines him indicating occupational health or chronic pain


The UK and other ageing populations will have to increase their state pension age to 71 by 2050 to maintain the number of workers per retiree, according to analysis for the International Longevity Centre’s Healthy Ageing and Prevention Index.

The Index ranks 121 countries against six indicators: life span, health span, work span, income, environmental performance and happiness.

However, most of those countries ranked at the top of the Index have rapidly ageing populations which the ILC says makes it increasingly important for these governments to act to support healthy ageing.

The Index maps the dependency ratio of each country, which is based on the percentage of people aged 65+ relative to the working adult population (15-64), comparing changes in the ratio over time based on the ILC’s Healthy Ageing and Prevention Index ranking of each country in 2019.

It shows that high-ranked countries are ageing at a very rapid rate compared with lower-ranked countries. It says that in the UK the state pension age would need to be 70 or 71 by 2050 compared with 66 now to maintain the status quo of the constant number of workers per state pensioner. It states that this might need to be brought forward 10 years if factors such as time spent in full-time education is taken into account.

Currently, the plan is for the state pension age to increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028. Any further changes will need legislation and there needs to be at least a 10-year ‘warning’ to enable people to plan.

The ILC says that the recent stalling in life expectancy during austerity and COVID has temporarily eased the pressure for increases in state pension age beyond 67 after 2027, but says longer-term the pressure will be on to increase it to 68 or 69 before that.

It also points out that its figures do not, however, take into account ill health forcing people into economic inactivity well before retirement age. Getting people to work for longer is one solution being put forward, but the ILC points out that, by age 70, only 50% of adults are disability-free and able to work. Finding ways for the economically inactive to work could hold the rise of the state pension back for at least a few years, according to the analysis. Greater attention to health prevention work is also vital, says the ILC.

It states: “Policymakers can no longer ignore the impact of poor health on wider society and doing so will simply make wider policies related to work or pensions ineffective.

“Without effective long-term action, growing age imbalances will become an increasingly powerful driver of migration flows as now, but not exclusively between richer and poorer countries. However, this is not a sustainable solution and will be to the economic and social detriment of the countries of origin as well as destination.”

The ILC is also calling for the extension of auto-enrolment and more encouragement for gig workers to save.

Jonathan Cribb, associate director and head of retirement at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said increasing the pension age without addressing other cost-saving measures was not “realistic or equitable,” adding: “It would disproportionately impact poorer individuals whose ill-health means they have shorter lives, and so who receive pensions for less time.”

Meanwhile, a survey of 2,000 adults by Canada Life has found that about one in five people over 55 believe they have been discriminated against because of their age, in relation to everything from promotion to stress at work.

And analysis by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association, published at the end of the week, found that there needs to be a significant increase in the estimated amount needed for a moderate standard of living in retirement. It estimates the figure has risen by £8,000, or 35%, from £23,300 to £31,300 for a single person due to the cost of living crisis and changes in behaviour. Achieving this moderate lifestyle in retirement requires a pension pot of £459,000 for a single person, it states.

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