Official statistics office warns that increasing state pension age is likely to have ‘disproportionate implications’ for healthy retirement in south-east and north-east of England

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Official figures show the number of older workers – those working beyond state pension age – has nearly doubled from 753,000 in 1993 to 1.4 million last year.

It comes as separate statistics show the health gap widening between elderly people  in the north-east and the south of England.

The government’s own statisticians say there is ‘a compelling case’ for monitoring the effect of Coalition social and economic policies on the widening health gap among the UK’s elderly population.

It warns: ‘The impending increase in the state pension age is likely to have disproportionate implications for the length of retirement which is spent disability-free for both men and women living in the North East region compared with the South East.’

Pensions campaigners say government policies are forcing poorer people in the UK to ‘work in back-breaking jobs till they drop’.

The ONS forecasts for people living a life in retirement without disabilities are starkly different, depending on where they live.

The report says a man living in the North East from the age of 16 can expect and average live of 45.3 years disability-free.

For those in the South East it is 51.5 years.

Men in the South East can expect to spend around 80% of their lives after retirement disability free, compared with only 74% in the North East.

For women the figures are around 77% and 70% respectively.

This is despite the fact that people can also expect to live longer in the South East.

So, men and women in the North East not only experience shorter life expectancies, they also spend longer periods of time living with a limiting illness or disability than those in the South East.

According to the ONS, the numbers of people working beyond state retirement age were relatively stable until 2000 but rose quickly after the millennium to a peak of 1.45 million in 2010.

Almost two thirds of those people were women, the majority of them working in low-skilled, relatively poorly paid jobs.

A high proportion of older workers were self-employed: in the last quarter of 2011, 32% of workers aged above state pension age were self-employed, compared with just 13% of those below that age.

The ONS found that of the 1.4m older workers at the end of last year, 61% were women, compared to 39% among men.

However, around two-thirds of these men worked in jobs classed as higher skilled – ranging from company chief executives, property and marketing managers to farmers and taxi drivers – while almost two-thirds of the women worked in lower skilled jobs.

Among women working beyond state retirement age, the most common job was cleaners, followed by administration assistants, care workers and retail assistants.

Miles Barter from the union-backed ‘68 is too late‘ campaign said:”We live in a society where rich people retire when they like while poor people are forced to work until they drop in back-breaking low paid jobs.

“All the statistics show that most people are already suffering health problems by the time they reach the state pension age.

“Everyone should have the chance to receive a decent state pension at an age when they are healthy enough to enjoy it.”


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