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You and your pension: things to say to your MP

October 2005
  Amazon book - The pension puzzle

 

 

You and your pension: things to say to your MP
 

1. Don’t lump all older people together


Attitudes to work, retirement and pensions are not linked to age, according to new research from the Employers’ Forum on Age.

A new report from the Employers’ Forum on Age (EFA), Attitude not Age, reveals that a 'one-size-fits-all' approach by the Government and employers to tackle working for longer and retirement will be ineffective. It seems that age is irrelevant when it comes to people's attitudes to working for longer - over half of all workers want to retire as soon as possible.

EFA says that Government and employers must understand what motivates people so they can influence individual decisions about work and retirement. Smarter communication and offering tailored incentives to each group will be essential.

The research reveals four types of worker (Rooster, Workhorse, Sheepdog and Cat), whose attitudes are determined less by their age than their education, skills and the type of work they're doing.

  • Roosters make up 31% of the workforce. This group is focused, flourishing, well-educated and happy. Despite this, Roosters want to leave work and retire as soon as possible.

  • Workhorses are 21% of the workforce. This group feels undervalued and unfulfilled, is unhappy at work and looks forward to retirement (only 3% of Workhorses are happy to work until they are 70).

  • Sheepdogs make up 27% of employees. They are conscientious but cautious. They see work as a significant part of their social life. The idea of stopping work to retire doesn't make sense to Sheepdogs, but many feel that the physical nature of the jobs they do will prevent them from working longer.

  • Cats (21%) have an easy-come, easy-go attitude to work. They are laid-back, confident and successful at work, and very much 'go their own way'. They are likely to have a similar attitude to retirement.
     

For further information and a copy of the report, Attitude not Age, contact Lizzie Barrett on 020 7622 8252.


2. Listen to the Jury


This year (2005) Age Concern England set up a Citizens’ Jury on the issue of pensions reform. With the Pensions Commission due to publish its final report in winter of 2005, Age Concern chose to run a Citizens’ Jury - a unique way to engage the public in deliberation about issues of national concern.. A nationally representative group of 18 members of the public met in Sheffield in July to consider this critical policy issue.


The context:

  • In the UK we are living for longer but having fewer children.

  • There are many more pensioners in addition to an ageing workforce, coupled with a low level of support through the state pension and many employers moving away from final salary schemes.

  • Expectations of quality of life in retirement are increasing, yet there is a substantial gap between the amount many people are saving and the income they want to enjoy in retirement (this is especially true of babyboomers).

  • Serious inequalities are experienced by a number of groups including women, people from black and minority ethnic groups and carers.

  • Although expenditure on benefits such as Pension Credit has increased, the Basic State Pension continues to lose value in relation to general living standards.


The Jury:


Jurors were deliberately selected to have no professional knowledge of the pensions system. Their task was first to agree on the principles that should underpin any reforms and second to examine these choices and come to a consensus on the way ahead.
Over two days they heard evidence from pensions experts and lay witnesses; they considered the policy positions of interest groups, including trade unions, the insurance industry, businesses and equality organisations.

How the Jury responded:

  • The Jurors approached the subject with excitement and enthusiasm - despite initially feeling unconfident and ill-equipped. “It’s good that (we) might be able to influence something.”

  • Everyone acknowledged the importance of pensions, for themselves, friends and families and society as a whole.

  • They grappled with the complexity of the different systems but there was no suggestion of pensions being dull!

  • There was a high degree of consensus across the Jury despite their differences, in age, income and lifestyle.

  • There were some initial differences in attitudes between the age groups, with the under-35s particularly sceptical about the value of saving into pensions (as opposed to other vehicles).

  • As the Jury progressed there was substantial agreement across the age range as to the need for reform (and the actions required). Many feared that their children and grandchildren were at risk of being worse off than today’s pensioners, and the older Jurors were keen to impress on younger members the importance of saving for retirement.

The Jury’s Charter

  • A liveable income for all.

  • A simplified system which everyone can understand.

  • Equality, so that the role of women and carers is recognised in retirement.

  • Long-term solutions, rather than ‘tweaking’ the current system.

  • Changes which are sustainable beyond the current government, a cross-party agreement.

  • Increases in levels of public trust and confidence in private pensions providers and the government.

3. Put women on an equal footing


One in five single women pensioners now lives in poverty and just 16% of women qualify for a full basic state pension on their own contributions compared to 78% of men.


Without urgent Government action, tomorrow's pensioners will face the same fate. And despite high divorce rates, worrying new research by ICM for Age Concern reveals that a third of young women plan to rely on their partner for a pension.


The research also reveals massive public support for a shake-up of the system to put women who care on an equal footing with those in traditional paid employment. As the Government kicks off discussions on pensions, this research is a clear signal that the public wants radical pension reform:

  • Just 22% believe the current system is fair and shouldn't be changed.

  • 75% want carers or those in part-time or low-paid work to have their contribution recognised in the same way as full-time employment.

  • 61% believe that the Government should reduce the number of years needed to qualify for a pension or introduce a pension based on residency.

The current system, unchanged since the 1940s, is rigid and inflexible for people with non-traditional working patterns. And it's women - particularly carers, full-time mothers and low-paid or part-time workers - who miss out the most.


Women need to be at the heart of the pensions debate.


Age Concern and the Fawcett Society have been jointly campaigning for the Government to tackle the scandal of female pensioner poverty since 2003. Two reports have been published 'One in Four' (Feb 04) and 'A Blueprint for Reform' (April 05) and are available from www.ageconcern.org.uk


 


   

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