From Ros Altmann:economist and pensions,
    investment and retirement policy expert

  • pensionsandsavings.com

    Government must not betray pensioners again – millions live on far less than workers’ pay

    Government must not betray pensioners again – millions live on far less than workers’ pay

    • State Pension inflation protection must be properly restored after broken promises this year, especially as all public sector workers and pensioners will get full cpi pension uprating.  
    • Although public sector pay has not risen as much, public sector pension costs are around £50billion a year, a significant real terms deferred pay rise since 2010.
    • UK State Pension increase was only 3.1% this year, despite earnings and prices rises rocketing twice as much, and UK State Pension is the lowest in the developed world.
    • Millions of pensioners spend most of their pension on essentials like food and energy that have soared in price.

    After last year’s betrayal, pensioners must have proper protection next year: Millions of pensioners were betrayed this year when the Conservative Election Manifesto pledge to keep their triple lock protection was not honoured. After struggling through the pandemic, many are now battling the cost of living rises. As earnings rose by over 8% last year, the Government decided it would not be ‘fair’ to keep the earnings link and passed legislation to take away the promised protections, even from the poorest pensioners. This has resulted in rising pensioner poverty, and those who complain that public sector pay is not rising by as much as cpi are ignoring the value of public sector pensions.


    Public sector pension costs have risen significantly in real terms, but are ignored in discussion of pay rises: Public sector workers benefit from fully inflation-protected pensions. Workers, already mostly earning far more than State Pension payments, actually receive significant additional pay in the form of pensions.  These are deferred earnings.  The value of public sector pensions has soared since 2010 as ultra-low interest rates have increased their value from around 25-30% of each workers’ salary, to well over 40% of salary now.  The costs of public sector pension payments each year has risen to £49.7billion according to official figures. These payments can never be reduced and must rise in line with inflation, so how could it be right to suggest that State Pensions should not be increased at least as much? The annual public sector pensions bill has consistently outstripped forecasts, despite efforts to reduce the disparity in generosity between public and private sector pensions. However, public sector workers do not tend to consider the full value of their promised pensions when discussing their pay, but this is a real part of the cost to taxpayers, who must pay promised pensions together with full inflation protection.  In the private sector, inflation increases are capped at 5% or 2.5% or there is no index-linking at all.


    UK’s State Pension is just £9,500 a year and increased only 3.1% in April, despite soaring prices: The 3.1% State Pension rise for this year started in April, despite inflation soaring since last October.  This means many struggling with the rising cost of living, while both prices and earnings have rocketed by more than twice this amount. CPI Inflation is around 7% and set to rise sharply higher. Earnings growth, including bonuses, is around 6% and average workers’ pay is over £25,000 a year. But the full new State Pension is only around £9,500 a year, the lowest of all developed countries, so it is vital for Government to ensure pensioners are not abandoned during this inflation crisis.  Millions rely solely on the State Pension and the poorest, typically women and those who were in low-paid careers, often had no chance to build private pensions.  Many are falling into poverty.


    Promised protection was even stripped from Pension Credit leaving the poorest at risk:  The 3.1% increase for pensioners, well below the promised triple lock, was also applied to the means-tested Pension Credit. This benefit had always been tied to average earnings and never covered by the triple lock promise. However, the Government passed new legislation to strip these poorest pensioners of their earnings protection too. These older citizens spend most of their money just on essentials like food and heating, which have increased by far more than overall inflation, making it particularly difficult for them to make ends meet.


    Emergency help for pensioners is welcome and proper pension rises next year are only right: The Government has, commendably, introduced emergency extra help for pensioners this year as one-off payments, but it is really important they are properly protected next year and I fully support the decision to ensure the promised inflation increases are paid from next April.  Pensioners were short-changed this year, punishing the poorest unfairly and increasing the numbers in poverty.   They must not be betrayed again.

    5 thoughts on “Government must not betray pensioners again – millions live on far less than workers’ pay

    1. Indeed, paltry levels of pension here in the Uk. For 4 years in Sweden I ‘earned’ about 25% of my UK pension despite paying NIC for 50 years and as I’m still trying to work I’m still paying!

    2. I heard the interview with Sarah Montague today on the current pensions controversy and am frustrated that no mention is ever made of the two-tier pension system, where younger pensioners get a much higher sum than older pensioners, like me. Just because I am 80 years old, is there any reason for leaving me behind by about £40 per week? Are my needs any less?

    3. I’m 65 years old and have a fully paid up state pension . I had to give up my job of 35years in March because I can no longer physically do the heavy work. I had no option during my working life to join a company pension (I didn’t earn enough) and I could never afford a private pension so now I have no income for one more year. this cannot be right

    4. Many pensioners are not getting pension credit where rent, council tax and other things are covered so they, those on PC , get to keep more of their pension than those who have saved a little which takes them over the threshold. This doesnt seem right as the outgoings can be the same for both. Why encourage people to save for their old age only to spend it on what others get having spent theirs earlier?

    5. At 62 I am working full time, trying to assist my working children with their childcare problems and also supporting my 85 year old mother and a husband recovering from prostate cancer who cannot work. I have paid my full NI contributions but will not get my occupational pension till I am 65 and my state pension until I am 67. Fortunately I am fit and healthy, but if there was an option to retire early along with other women/men in this situation think how much I could save social services and the economy by being able to do more for my family as part of this ‘squeezed generation’

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