Responding to ‘Pension Trends - Inequalities and poverty in retirement’, and the ’An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK: Report of the National Equality Panel’ David Sinclair, Head of Policy and Research at the International Longevity Centre - UK said:
On the one hand the National Statistics report reveals that the position of retired households has improved over the last 30 years and that there has been a downward trend in the number of pensioners living in poverty since the mid-1990s. However with two million people still with incomes below 60% of median income (after housing costs), this is not the time to start celebrating.
National statistics reveal that between 1977 and 2007/08, the wealthiest increased their share of total household income whilst the poorest saw their share fall. In other words, the gap between rich and poorer older pensioners has grown.
We can’t look at these statistics in isolation from today’s National Equality Panel report which found that whilst progress has been made in tackling poverty, deep-seated and systematic differences in economic outcomes remain between and particularly within social groups. The report highlights that many inequalities accumulate across the life cycle and are often passed on to the next generation.
What these two reports highlight is that if we are to solve these major challenges of poverty and inequality we can’t pitch one generation against the next. The poorest tend to live shorter lives and spend longer in ill health. We must therefore address income and health inequalities early if we are to have an impact on pensioner poverty later in life. Extra investment in prevention is vital, but so is ensuring that all have the opportunity to be economically active.
The recent economic downturn has challenged the job prospects of both young and old. We need greater support for young people to enter the job market and for older people to stay in active employment, if they choose to do so. For older people, flexible working and allowing people to continue to work past 65 years of age is critical if we are to achieve this goal.
At the same time, while the recent pension reforms will make a difference, we are still not making enough provision for our retirement. And we must ensure that those on the lowest incomes are claiming the benefits they are entitled to. Some of the poorest pensioners are missing out on £5 billion of unclaimed benefits.
Poverty and inequality is too important an issue to become a political football. The challenges are difficult and we have seen significant progress over recent years. However, we must work together to identify and implement policy solutions which will ensure people aren’t disadvantaged simply because of their age, gender, race, social class or birthplace.
“Pension Trends - Inequalities and poverty in retirement” is available at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pensiontrends/
National Equality Panel report is available at: http://www.equalities.gov.uk/national_equality_panel.aspx
Date :27 January 2010
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