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Is it right to raise the retirement age?

The Tories want more of us to stay in work for longer – how do you feel about not seeing your state pension until you're 66?

Published on October 8th 2009.

Is it right to raise the retirement age?

The Conservatives announced plans last night to raise the state retirement age to 66 in 2016 – a full decade earlier than Labour would – in order to cut the country's budget deficit. It would mean that all men and women under the age of 58 will be expected to work longer before they can receive the state pension.

The state pension age is currently 65 for men and 60 for women. Under Labour, the state retirement age for women will increase by 12 months every two years from 2010 to 2020 to bring it in line with men. So by 2016, it will already be 63 for women. The Conservative's proposals mean that one year would be added to the retirement age for men, and three years for women. David Cameron clarified this morning that those extra three years will be added gradually.

The Tories estimate this will save £13bn a year. It's much needed money for a country suffering from a huge burden of debt, and they say it reflects the rise in life expectancy. Shadow chancellor George Osborne will tell the Conservative party conference today: “This is another one of those trade-offs any honest government has to confront. All parties accept that with an ageing population, the state pension will have to rise.”

With many people living well into their 80s and 90s, is retirement too long now anyway? Some older workers welcome the opportunity to continue their career; jobs provide a sense of identity, purpose, and a social network, as well as a stronger financial situation. Older workers have experience and skills that younger ones may lack – it makes sense to keep hold of them as long as possible.

But not everyone wants to work way into their 60s. Manual workers in particular may struggle because of the physical demands of their jobs. And what about those people who dislike their jobs? Not everyone has a career that interests and inspires them. Is it fair to keep our noses to the grindstone rather than giving us a well deserved rest?

A report by the Office for National Statistics released in 2008 estimated that life expectancy for boys born in Manchester is just 73 – the shortest in England, while for girls born here it is 78 – a full nine years lower than the life expectancy of girls born in affluent parts of London. So a male Mancunian retiring at 66 can maybe expect just seven years of leisure after up to 50 years of grafting?

Perhaps it's not the retirement age that's the issue but the concept of retirement itself. Traditionally, people have worked full time up to state pension age, then abruptly stopped. They suddenly have a lot more time and a lot less money – not always a good combination if you're looking for a happy life.

Nowadays, more older people are opting to gradually reduce their working hours instead of stopping work altogether. More employers need to enable them to do this – it's well known that the retail sector welcomes older workers, but not everyone wants to work in Marks and Spencers or B&Q, particularly if they've spent their lives becoming highly skilled in another job.

In the meantime, should we be forced to work longer for the good of the economy, or is it unfair to expect more from an already over-worked nation? UK citizens work longer hours than most other European countries – is extending our working lives making a bad situation worse?

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8 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Corpie MacOctober 8th 2009.

I work in the public sector and for thirty years I have been paying into one of the so-called "gold-plated pensions" the Tories are always going on about it. I dread being forced to stop working for my barely-adequate salary and being expected to live on this dismal pension.

Corpie punishmentOctober 8th 2009.

You are one of the privileged who has a pension, Corpie Man. I am in the private sector and have nothing to fall back on, as I suspect do many people reading this. I also have a pay freeze this year and probably next. If times get really tough we have to take a pay cut, that's happened twice this year. So get back to pantoland and practise your golf swing for the golden days to come. My family will be working till we drop.

Corpie MacOctober 8th 2009.

You'll be allowed to work - I won't! I've had a pay freeze for three years already (it was either that or redundancy) and I'm not a senior manager, so I don't play golf.If your employer was greedy enough to spend your pension fund when Thatcher gave him the go-ahead, it's hardly my fault.

Corpie punishmentOctober 8th 2009.

The company I work for has never had a pension fund. It's a small business like many others and since the bankers took all the goodwill to customers away, we never know if we are going to see our wages at the end of the month. Does that happen at Municipal Buildings? I think not. You are spoilt in the public sector and have no idea of reality, which is perhaps why town hall mandarins **** it up all the time.

Davy the GravyOctober 8th 2009.

I thought that I was being prudent paying into every company pension scheme that was available to me throughout my working life. It would appear that these piggy banks can be raided at will, should the need arise, by unscrupulous senior boards. If I could have my time again, I wouldn't even open a savings account, let alonebpurchase a pension or mess about with ISA's - I'd just spend the lot week in week out. Let's face it, there won't be a retirement age soon and we'll just have to keep going... (or is that where we are now?)

Nik16October 8th 2009.

U not like it u go and live in spain

R. SwipeOctober 8th 2009.

Nik16 (I assume that is your IQ) why don't you go and live in a tub of your own excrement. You seem to be producing enough of it in just a couple of appearances.

Kronstadt1921October 8th 2009.

This is just the start. If we don't organise to oppose this measure, we'll be facing the gradual elimination of retirement. Our kids and grandkids won't thank us.

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