Disability, poor health preventing nearly 500,000 people approaching retirement from working – Coalition plans to raise state pension age will create ‘limbo zone’ for older people, says TUC


Disability and poor health are preventing nearly half a million people approaching retirement from working, according to the TUC.

It says that figure will increase as the state pension age starts to rise.

TUC analysis of official employment data has found only around half of all men in their early sixties have a job, with 62% of women aged 56-60 having in work.

It is feared that many older people are unfit or will find it hard to find work and so will end up in a new limbo zone – too young for a pension, and too old to work.

Nearly two in five of those approaching the state pension age are economically inactive – which is defined as someone who has not sought work in the last four weeks.

Long-term sickness and disability are cited as the main reasons for those people not being able to work.

The TUC says people formerly working in skilled trades, heavy industry and low-skilled jobs are most likely to be inactive due to disability and ill-health, while managers and senior officials are far more likely to be inactive because of early retirement.

Nearly a hundred thousand more people are currently inactive due to long-term sickness and disability (470,325) than to taking early retirement (375,368).

In contrast, around a quarter of a million of all economically inactive older people say they actually want to work.

The TUC argues that government is wrong to raise the state pension age without first addressing health inequalities which officials believe are forcing many people out of work well before they can draw their pension.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “While more people are working past their state pension age, often as the only way to get a decent retirement income, a far greater number of older people are unable to work due to ill-health or because they are trapped in long-term unemployment.

“Accelerating the rise in the state pension age will simply push more people into poverty.

“With a benefits system that gets meaner and tougher each year, even 66 year olds who have worked for decades before stopping work will be treated as work-shy scroungers.

“By raising the state pension age and ignoring persistent health inequalities, the government risks overseeing a dramatic rise in pensioner poverty.”

The TUC is also concerned that planned rises in the pension age are being accompanied by tighter controls on social security support that will force many older people to actively look for work or risk losing their benefits.

It says ministers should focus on tackling age discrimination, extending access to flexible working and supporting those who are actively seeking work to re-enter the jobs market.

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