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Press Release

Embargoed Wednesday 9th November 00.01

Current pensioners have managed to secure unprecedented leisure time but fail to enjoy the fruits of their labour  


Current pensioners have come close to achieving Keynes’ 80 year old vision of economic bliss – where people are able to capitalise on extended periods of leisure time[1]. But many have fallen short of his ideal because they are unable to remain active and spend their accumulated wealth. Meanwhile, future generations may be forced to work longer hours and experience a sustained reduction in leisure time.

Based on analysis of OECD and Bank of England datasets [2], the findings will be presented by ILC-UK Head of Economics, Ben Franklin, at the ILC-UK’s Second Annual Future of Ageing Conference today.

Those reaching retirement today have benefitted from falling working hours, earlier exits from the labour force and longer life expectancy. New analysis from the ILC-UK shows how this has translated into far fewer working hours over the expected lifetimes of adults retiring today:

  • An average of 23 hours per week for those retiring in the UK today versus 30 hours in 1970.
  • An average of 19 hours per week in France for those retiring today versus 34 hours in 1970.
  • An average of 21 hours per week in Norway for those retiring today versus 30 hours in 1970[3].

Mr Franklin will argue that despite the success in substantially reducing lifetime working hours and increasing leisure time, those in retirement are not necessarily “enjoying the abundance when it comes”.[4] He highlights ILC-UK research which finds that, on average, older people are “underspending”[5], that poor health prevents older people from doing what they want in retirement, and that most leisure time is taken up watching TV and later on, living at home alone.

Yet just as we get accustomed to shorter working weeks, the trend has started to reverse. New analysis of 300 years’ worth of data suggests that the post-World War II period was an economic anomaly characterised by high wage growth, substantial increases in the productivity of labour and in the successful diffusion of productive invention (see chart). Since the year 2000, growth in each of these areas has stalled meaning people have had to work for longer to keep the economy ticking over.

Speaking at the conference, Ben Franklin will say:

“Over eighty years ago, Keynes had a vision that people would work substantially fewer hours and have much more leisure time to use in meaningful ways – to “enjoy the abundance when it comes”. Yet while we reduced the number of working hours across the lifetimes of those retiring today and created extensive periods of adult life outside of the workforce, most leisure time in retirement is spent watching television and, later on, living at home alone. Poor health and disability remain significant barriers to economic bliss in retirement.

Meanwhile, weak economic fundamentals may mean that Keynes’ vision of bliss will slip further from the fingers of those in the workforce today, with slower productivity growth leading to longer hours in work. If, as the data suggests, it turns out that the period 1950-2000 was an economic anomaly rather than the new normal, this will have profound implications for the future leisure opportunities of today’s workers.”


David Sinclair, ILC-UK Director, also speaking at the conference, will set out a positive vision for the Future of Ageing. He will argue that we are at a tipping point where staff shortages, the increasing economic cost of ageing and poor economic fundamentals will force action by policymakers.

Speaking at the conference David Sinclair will say:

“Over the past decade public policy has started to respond to the challenge of ageing. Auto enrolment into pensions has got millions more people saving. We have seen falls in serious illness among older people over the past decade as well as, for example, falls in excess winter deaths. We have seen a growth in age friendly communities as our society slowly adapts to ageing.

We have begun responding to ageing but we are miles from where we need to be. Health and social care funding is inadequate to meet demand, too few people are saving an adequate amount for their retirement and most of us aren’t living as healthily as we should.

But while ageing may seem an impossible challenge for politicians, with political will and action we can ensure the future of ageing is a success rather than a threat to our economy.”


Speaking at the conference, Sinclair highlights 6 “silver bullets” for policy makers to focus effort on, pointing out that achieving change in all these areas is possible with leadership and political will.

The 6 ILC-UK silver bullets

  • Maximising the economic contribution of older people
  • Getting us healthy
  • Maximising the potential of technology and big data
  • Stop patronising old age. Treat adults as adults
  • Start talking about end of life
  • Let’s make ageing fun

Ends

Contact

David Eaton, davideaton@ilcuk.org.uk (07851042609), David Sinclair, davidsinclair@ilcuk.org.uk (07543646992) or Ben Franklin, benfranklin@ilcuk.org.uk (07393325293)

Journalists who would like to attend the Future of Ageing conference should contact ILC-UK asap. Filming and interviews may be arranged with speakers.

Notes:

Copies of the presentation of new analysis by Ben Franklin are available for journalists from Dave Eaton at ILC-UK. They will be published on the ILC-UK Website after the event.

Copies of other presentations on the day will also be made available on the ILC-UK website after the Future of Ageing Conference.

The ILC-UK Future of Ageing conference (http://www.futureofageing.org.uk/) brings together representatives from Government, business, academia and civil society. Speakers at this year’s conference, being held in Westminster, include:

  • John Cridland CBE, Head of the Independent State Pension Age Review
  • The Rt Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Lord Carey of Clifton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1991-2002
  • Professor Sarah Harper, Director, Oxford Institute of Population Ageing
  • Dr Margaret McCartney, GP and regular contributor on Radio 4’s Inside Health
  • Dwayne Johnson, Director of Social Care and Health at Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council
  • John Pullinger CB, National Statistician, UK Statistics Authority
  • Dr Islene Araujo de Carvalho, Senior Policy and Strategy Adviser, Department of Ageing and Life Course, WHO
  • Jonathan Stevens, Senior Vice President, Thought Leadership, AARP
  • Linda Woodall, Director of Life Insurance and Financial Advice, and sponsor of the Ageing Population project, Financial Conduct Authority

On Friday 12th February 2016, the ILC-UK published a report based on the information presented at the 2015 Future of Ageing conference, guest blogs written for our Future of Ageing series, and research and analysis from ILC-UK.  The report is available on the ILC-UK website at www.ilcuk.org.uk

The International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) is a futures organisation focussed on some of the biggest challenges facing Government and society in the context of demographic change.

We ask difficult questions and present new solutions to the challenges and opportunities of ageing. We undertake research and policy analysis and create a forum for debate and action.

[1] John Maynard Keynes, The economic possibilities for our grandchildren (1930)

[2] The Bank of England's Three Centuries Macroeconomic Dataset Version 2.3 - 30 June 2016

[3] We used OECD data to estimate likely hours in work as a proportion of total expected adult life. This is total estimated working hours over a lifetime divided by the number of adult years. Adult years is calculated as current life expectancy at the point of retirement minus age of entry in the labour force (we use age 18 for year of entry since time series data on entry is not available for all countries).

[4] John Maynard Keynes, The economic possibilities for our grandchildren (1930)

[5] http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/index.php/publications/publication_details/understanding_retirement_journeys_expectations_vs_reality

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