Neil Foster of Progressive Polling reports on new poll data showing public disapproval of the government’s plans to raise the state pension age.
One of the least discussed elements of George Osborne’s controversial budget was the announcement on the state pension age. The coalition government’s proposed plans would delay state pension ages to 68 which would be the latest point of anywhere in Europe.
The government wants to link this higher retirement age to life expectancy, meaning even further delays for people receiving their pension in the future.
Subsequent analysis from pensions and investments analysts at Standard Life shows the policy of linking to life expectancy would have dramatic implications for the younger generation of workers – it would mean a 37-year-old would have to wait until 70 before receiving their state pension.
Meanwhile, a 21-year-old would have to wait until they were 75, and someone born this year would be working until they were 80 and not get their state pension until 2092.
This week, the Unite, PCS and NUT trade unions are highlighting public rejection of the government’s plans to delay retiring until 68.
As Chart 1 shows, 77% of voters do not think it’s fair Britain is increasing the state pension age longer than anywhere else in Europe. 14% believe it is fair and 9% don’t know;
There is strong opposition across supporters of all political parties: 69% of people who voted Conservative at the 2010 general election think it is unfair, as do 77% of people who voted Lib Dems and 90% of those who voted Labour.
Opposition is strong among two groups of voters the Conservative Party needs to regain support from:
Women voters are a more likely to think it is unfair than men (81% versus 73%);
Meanwhile, 83% of C2DE voters are opposed. compared to 73% of ABC1 voters.
Among those directly affected by the policy:
A clear majority (62%) are uncomfortable with the government’s plan to delay the point someone can receive their state pension until 68;
The same figure (62%) believe the plans to raise the state retirement age to at least 68 will hit the poorest pensioners the most, with 24% thinking it will hit all pensioners equally, 12% not knowing and just 1% thinking it will hurt the wealthiest pensioners most, as Chart 2 shows.
Voters see a number of risks with the government’s proposal to delay the state pension age until 68:
31% saw it as people having less opportunity to enjoy retirement while healthy and 29% thought it meant fewer jobs being available for younger people;
Only 16% thought older people would be less able to do physically or mentally demanding jobs and 15% thought poorer health would result from having to work for longer;
Just 2% thought it was grandparents being less able to spend time with or help out with their grandchildren.
• Raising the pension age will be a public health disaster 18 Dec 2011
There is a political danger for the government that its policy is seen as a ‘work-until-you-drop’ initiative that will not adversely affect its ministers or the more affluent. This is in direct contrast to debate in France where newly elected President Hollande is promising to reduce the state pension age from 62 to 60 years for some workers.
Regardless of what happens in France, though, there is an opportunity for campaigners to highlight the huge variation between what the UK coalition government is proposing and what is recommended in other European countries. The delaying and linking of state pension age to life expectancy risks being another government measure that will hit the next generation the hardest and the least well off the most.
It’s a policy that is set to face disapproval across the political spectrum in the short and long term.
You can download the data in full here.