The number of women aged between 60 and 64 in work has increased by 51 per cent in the 10 years since the state pension age was increased, official data has shown.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics, analysed by Rest Less, showed the number of women in that age bracket in work had increased by 331,702 since 2010 – the year before the state pension age for women started rising from 60 to 65 to bring it in line with the male state pension age.
The pension age has been gradually increasing further since 2018, with those under the age of 40 seeing the largest jump in their pension age to 68 years old. Male and female pension ages have increased at the same rate since they came into line with each other in 2018.
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Duncan Brown, head of HR consultancy at IES, said the increase in the number of older women working was both good and bad news. While he said the health benefits of working were evident, Brown criticised the way the initial change in 2011 was implemented.
“Some women got an awful surprise because they banged [the pension age] up by five years in one go,” said Brown. “It’s a forced increase of women who were expecting their pension at 60 and now have no choice but to carry on working.”
Patrick Thomson, programme manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, said that for many women, working to an older age would be “a positive choice, with work providing financial independence, an opportunity to save for retirement, meaning and purpose”.
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But Thomson added: “For others this will be the culmination of inequalities that have built up over a lifetime, remaining in low-paid, insecure or poor-quality work and delaying retirement through financial necessity.
“The rising state pension age has clearly had an impact on women’s working lives. But while longer lives and changing patterns of work mean many of us can expect to work for longer, it's vital that people are able to be in work that improves their current and later lives.”
Between October and December 2009, there were 644,674 women aged 60 to 64 in work. In the same period in 2019, there were 976,376, marking a 51 per cent rise. The number of men in the same age bracket increased by just 13 per cent (127,882 people) over the same period.
The qualifying state pension age for both men and women will be increased to 66 by October this year and 67 by 2028. It is then set to increase to 68 between 2044 and 2046.
Clare Moffat, head of business development at Royal London, said: “The increase of women working further into retirement age is good news for the economy and great news for women’s pension wealth.
“But there is still much to be done to encourage these women to keep investing in their pension and build their pots up for when they are ready to retire, and enjoy the type of retirement they would like to have.”
The analysis also revealed that the number of women aged 60 to 64 in work has increased by 167 per cent in the 20-year period since 1999.
Stuart Lewis, founder of Rest Less, said: “Demographic changes in the UK are only moving in one direction. Progressive employers that start embracing age in the workplace by introducing programmes to attract, engage and retain talented older workers will be the ones that prosper in the coming decade.”