Further increases in the state pension age could push it to the point where many working people die before qualifying for it, MPs have warned, in a report that calls for the end of the “triple lock” guarantee on pensions.
The Commons work and pensions select committee report on intergenerational fairness, published on Tuesday, claims that financing the triple lock in future will not be possible without increasing the state pension age to 70.5 years – leaving men in Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Blackpool dying on average before they receive their state pension.
Under the triple lock, pensions have risen every year since 2010 by whichever is the higher figure out of the rate of inflation, average earnings or a minimum of 2.5%. This has lifted many pensioners out of poverty but the committee said it had resulted in the over-65s taking an “ever greater share of national income”.
In its November 2016 report, the committee recommended that the triple lock be replaced from 2020 by a smoothed earnings link. This would benchmark the state pension to a fixed proportion of average earnings in the long run, but would protect its purchasing power in times of inflation.
Citing figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the committee said the state pension age would need to rise to 70.5 years by 2060 to make the triple lock affordable, “meaning today’s young would face working lives of over 50 years before receiving a state pension”.
It added: “Making the triple lock sustainable would mean pushing the state pension age over average life expectancy in poorer areas of the UK”.
Current male life expectancy is lowest in Blackpool, at 67.5, while it is 68.7 in parts of Bradford and 70.2 in much of Manchester. Tower Hamlets in London’s East End has a male life expectancy of 69.1.
Frank Field, the MP who chairs the committee, said: “With the triple lock in place, the only way state pension expenditure can be made sustainable is to keep raising the state pension age. This has the effect of excluding ever more people from the state pension altogether. Such people will disproportionately be from more deprived areas and manual occupations, while those benefitting most will be the relatively prosperous.
“By 2020, the state pension will be at a level where it will provide a decent minimum income for people in retirement to underpin private saving and any savings they have will be kept on top of, not clawed back from, the state pension. The triple lock will have done its job and it will be time therefore to retire it.”
But ministers have persistently rejected any suggestion that the triple lock, hugely popular among older voters, should be abandoned.
A government spokesperson said: “The government wants to ensure economic security for people at every stage of their life, including retirement. The triple lock has protected the incomes of millions of pensioners and we are committed to it for the duration of this parliament.”
The publication of the report will, however, add to the growing controversy over intergenerational fairness in Britain.
Pensioners are now £20 a week better off than working households on average – reversing the situation of 15 years ago, according to research published last week by the Resolution Foundation.
It found that gains from property, private pensions and higher benefits have pushed incomes of retirees above working families for first time.
This reversal of fortunes is not true of all retirees but relates to those who have an occupational pension, own their home and may also be still be earning.
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