Date: October 24, 2023
In a move that has stirred significant controversy, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a prominent think tank founded by Sir Ian Duncan Smith, has proposed a drastic increase in the UK state pension age, suggesting it should rise to 75 by 2035. This recommendation, the CSJ argues, is a response to the challenges posed by the country’s ageing population and the increasing Old Age Dependency Ratio (OADR), which have raised serious concerns about the long-term fiscal sustainability of public services in the UK.
The CSJ justifies its proposal by pointing out the significant increase in average life expectancy since the pension system was first introduced. When the state pension was established, the average life expectancy was 50. Today, it stands at 81, necessitating a reevaluation of the economic landscape. The think tank has suggested a gradual increase in the pension age, reaching 70 by 2028 before further escalating to 75 by 2035.
However, these recommendations have been met with strong opposition. Conservative peer and former pensions minister, Baroness Ros Altmann, condemned the proposal as “chilling and immoral,” expressing concerns that raising the pension age would compel individuals to work into old age, lead to increased benefit claims, and potentially shorten life expectancies.
Additionally, research conducted earlier this year has challenged the basis of the CSJ’s proposal. The UK currently has the slowest-growing life expectancy among G7 countries. Experts argue that this is primarily due to the disproportionate impact on disadvantaged social groups. Professor Martin McKee highlighted the increase in the variation in life expectancy between different social groups and emphasized the presence of significant structural and institutional weaknesses within the country.
Dr. Lucinda Hiam echoed these concerns, emphasizing that a relative deterioration in population health is indicative of underlying political and economic issues. This new analysis raises serious questions about the direction the UK is heading, suggesting that the problems faced by the country are deeply rooted and require comprehensive solutions.
The UK government, in response to the CSJ’s proposal, reaffirmed their decision made in 2017 to raise the future retirement age to 68, aiming to ensure the sustainability of the pension system for current and future generations.
As debates continue to unfold, the future of the UK state pension system remains uncertain. The discussions around the pension age raise fundamental questions about the social contract between the government and its citizens, and the delicate balance between economic sustainability and the well-being of the nation’s elderly population.