Raising the state pension age hits the hard-working the hardest

By John Hannett

Any increase in the state pension age has the biggest impact on those who cannot afford to retire without it.  Predominantly men in low-income jobs and women.

That is why Usdaw member, Barbara Bates, has set up a petition against the Tory-led government’s plans to speed up the increase in the state pension age to 66 by 2020 for both men and women:


Barbara’s story sets out how she feels that ministers have robbed her of two years of freedom, and of over £10,000 of state pension that she has been working for since the age of 15.

Women in their fifties such as Barbara have already seen a leap in their expected date of retirement as women’s state pension age is increased up to 65, in line with men’s, by 2020.

Now the Tory-led government has chosen to break the promise in the coalition agreement not to start to increase women’s state pension age further before 2020.  The pensions bill that will shortly enter Parliament proposes to delay the state pension even further for women who are now aged 56 and 57.

From thinking that they could retire at 60, the 500,000 women affected first saw their state pension age increase to 63 or 64. Now it has been pushed up to 65 or 66 – in some cases another 2 years later.  As Barbara says:

“To reach retirement it feels like a mountain I have to climb which keeps getting higher. It is so unfair on our class of people. We have worked hard all our lives and never asked for anything. Just as we start to see light at the end of the tunnel it is snatched away”.

Men and women in manual jobs find it much harder to continue working later in their lives. Those whose work involves heavy lifting or repetitive movements suffer increasingly from musculo-skeletal problems such as arthritis and RSI.

Those who have done manual work all their lives are also likely to have earned less and to have less in pension savings. So they cannot afford to retire until they can receive their state pension – even if they will struggle to continue in work.

Unfortunately, for many people in their sixties, the increase in their state pension age will simply lengthen the time that they battle to keep a job that their manager would rather see given to a younger person. In many industries, we are already seeing performance targets imposed at ever-higher levels that become increasingly difficult for older workers to achieve.

Instead of a happy approach to retirement, employees in these industries spend their final years at work under constant stress and worry about retaining their jobs.

These same people have a lower life expectancy than those with less strenuous jobs, but with higher incomes. In spite of increasing average life expectancy across all classes and all parts of the UK, people with lower incomes have a lower life expectancy and men in Glasgow still only live to an average of 69. So they will have less time to draw their state pension and enjoy their retirement.

We believe that the Tory-led government is wrong to break its promise to women in their late fifties not to raise their state pension age further before 2020. It is not that they have to do it to cut the deficit. None of the savings that the government will make – by robbing hard-working men and women of the state pensions that they have worked all their lives for – will start to take effect until 2016 at the earliest – AFTER the Government plans to have cut the deficit.

That is why Usdaw and many other unions are encouraging our members to sign Barbara’s petition. Most of the women – and men – who will be affected by these proposals have no idea that the pensions bill will impact so hard and so soon on their own retirement plans.

I am delighted that Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow pensions minister, is taking up this issue. Together, the Labour party and the trade unions can show the thousands of hard-working people about to be short-changed by this government that we are on their side.

John Hannett is general secretary of USDAW.

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15 Responses to “Raising the state pension age hits the hard-working the hardest”

  1. Rob Marchant says:

    John, I disagree with most things the Government is doing, but not this. Your article ignores entirely the demographic shifts in all Western populations. There is clearly no way that an increasing number of old people living longer can be funded by those in work. The pensionable age was set in a world where people lived at least 20 years longer.

    Pensionable age, at some point, has to rise and I really don’t understand how you can reasonably argue otherwise. Ultimately, not doing so means we would be shifting an increased financial burden onto our children’s generation.

  2. Tacitus says:

    As someone who had planned to be working until they were 65, I have been appalled by the actions of this government. I, and many like me, will find themselves in a few years time being forced to continmue working, even though we are prepared to give up our jobs.

    At a time when 2.5m people are unemployed and seeking work that doesn’t make sense. Courtesy of Tory mishandling of the economy, I have no financial security as I move towards old age and a bleak future working for an extra year, at a time when I wanted to sit back and enjoy the latter part of my life with my family, grandchils and beautiful wife.

    Thanks Cameron!

  3. Sandra Thomson says:

    To say I am utterly devestated at this proposal is an uderstatement. I will be 58 this August. Have been working for the last 28 years and was looking forward to being able to retire at 62/63 – which I felt was daunting enough, but to be told now it could be 66 is just shattering news. At 66 how will I cope with all the new technology which is moving ar such a fast pace even now. Does the Gov not realise that many of these hard working people will probably end up so stressed that they will end up on sick leave. Let us retire at a reasonable age and give our jobs to the young!!

  4. Ruth says:

    This is a very unfair proposal, especially on women born in 1954 who have already been hit hard by the rolling scale age rise and would face another 2 years to reach pension age if this passes as law.
    We started work at 15 years old, in poorly paid jobs, no equality of wages in those days and no chance of saving for a private pension.
    Many women in their mid/late 50s have age related complaints and find going out to work stressful and physically hard yet they can’t retire until they can claim state pension as they have no other means to live on, most are widows or single women. Sick leave ties up their jobs and leaves their employers short staffed.
    Working from 15 to 66 would be 51 years of contributions paid in, how can that be fair when 1 in 5 of 16-24 year olds are out of work, some who have never worked yet are living on benefits contributed to by older people !
    Free up older peoples jobs for the younger ones !
    We realise the retirement age has to equalise for men and women but the last government planned it fairly giving people time to adjust and to plan for the future.

  5. Rose says:

    How on earth will women who work as carers be able to cope to 66 ? The carers will be almost as old as the people they are caring for. The age rise from 60 to 64/65 was bad enough for those of us with physically hard jobs but working to 66, especially in the North where more women die in their 50s and 60s than elsewhere in the country is asking too much.
    We’ve had no chance to save and we now have no time to do so even if we could.
    I think many of us won’t live to see a penny of our state pension and maybe that’s what the government hope for. Going sick is not an option, it wouldn’t be enough to live on.
    Those of us widowed after widows pension stopped were cheated of that, our late husbands had no retirement so they had no return on their contributions and now we are going to be cheated of up to 2 years of our pension and a little bit of freedom after a lifetime of hard work.
    How can that be fair ?

  6. Barbara says:

    Rob, we know the pension age has to rise, and so it was, in a sensible way as set out by the previous Labour government. Women of my age group, born in 53/54 had already accepted extra working time added without complaint, in my case a week short of an extra 2 years, so I too would have been working from the age of 15 to 64, but it seems that’s not enough and the coalition government require me to work yet another 2 years. How can it be fair to pick a small group of women and make them bear the brunt of the age hike just to get it over and done with? Each one of us women is an individual with our own finances and health to worry about, what sense in blocking jobs that younger people could be doing when we’re starting to suffer with aches and pains and other health problems. I have bad hands and wrists, after a busy day at work I know that during the night my hands will ache like toothache, I get stressed at work because I know I’m slower to learn things than my younger colleagues, when I come home some days I’m totally worn out, and I still have some years to work yet. We’re told that if we can’t manage to go on working there’s job seekers allowance – yes that’s about half of the rate of pension and people have to prove they’re looking for work, or maybe go on the sick – again much less than pension and anyway we’re not allowed to be sick anymore now are we? All we’re asking is for the government to keep it’s promise, keep to the timetable that we all had accepted and allow us to retire with the pensions that we have worked many years for at a reasonable time when, perhaps, we still have time to enjoy a few years of leisure.

  7. Petra says:

    This is outrageous! Remember that women of my age often started work straight from school at 15 in low paid menial jobs, how on earth could we ever afford private pensions? I never even knew that ordinary working people could have them I always thought they were something that self employed people had to have because they wouldn’t get a state pension with not paying contributions from wages. I’m going to be struggling to manage physically and financially, I can’t afford to leave my job but I seriously doubt I’ll manage to get through an extra 18 months of full time work, I thought that by paying my way all my life I was earning my pension but it seems that I’m about to be robbed of several thousand pounds in broad daylight by a government that has no idea what life is like at the bottom of the heap. I’m livid and I’m going to fight this.

  8. Jane says:

    Thank you for this article Mr Hannett and for speaking out for the women to be hit by another age hike.
    How can it be right to plan to rob 500,000 women of up to 2 years of their pension and a bit of rest when drug addicts and alcoholics are living on benefits and getting everything free ?
    How can it be right when many young single girls are making a carer of having babies and claiming benefits despite having paid nothing in.
    How can it be right that women of the same age as those being forced to work to 66 have widows pension for life because their husband died before that was stopped ?
    How can it be right that a man now 65 can claim on his pension extra for his wife even though she is under pension age ? She doesn’t have to go out to work.
    The government are targeting the vulnerable older working women who are financially poor, to continue paying in from their small wages rather than to get the younger people out to work.
    How can it be right ?

  9. Fred says:

    I disagree with Mr Marchant. There must be other fairer ways of saving money for the next generation.
    I always knew my retiring age would be 65 and have had ample time to plan for that. Fair enough it will now be 66 but one extra year is a lot different to the 6 years added to some womens retirement age because of the 2 age increases.
    I think working from 15 to 66 is asking far too much of this generation of women who didn’t have the benefit of the option of a private pension and didn’t have equal wages to us men.
    Fairs fair but if this passes it will be very unfair and to me it would be discriminating against those women too.
    Think on too anyone who thinks differently, if they get away with this it will soon be up to 68 and then 70.
    Then a lot of us won’t be here for our pension !

  10. michael ellison says:

    despicable government many of them have never done a days work,let a lone fifty years.

  11. michael ellison says:

    my previous comments reflect my depth of feeling on this matter and are in no way offensive nor in bad taste

  12. carol connolly says:

    layabouts who have never worked will still get their pension

  13. cathy mosby says:

    Ihave worked from the age of 16 years and in my thirties I expected that I would retire at 60. No-one told me that I may have to work an extra 6 years before I received my state pension until 5 years ago. Why is this different to people who have supposedly been advised wrongly about private pensions, endowment morgatges, health cover etc. They have all taken their cases to court and been able to claim compensation as a result because they were misinformed. How is this different? They are taking money from thousands of women who have been misinformed. Also I have paid contributions into the second state pension which I will lose if the other proposal to pay everyone the same pension comes into force. So not only have I lost out regarding the age I can claim my pension, but also the extra contributions I have made during my working life are been taken as well. This surely cannot be fair after working all my adult life, never claiming a penny from the state in child tax credits, housing benefit etc. We really must fight this and make more people aware of the campaign against it.

  14. Anne Johnson says:

    Is anything still being done for women’s pensions particularly those born in 1954?

  15. Why should women born in 1954 be penalised more than any other age bracket it is very unfair.the changes to the retirement age have been made in too short a time and because of this thousands of women like me are have lost out by £000,s of pounds. The changes have to be made but this is much to soon to be fair.we need lots of support from other women of our age group and for the goverment to change their decision and think about the women who have worked all their lives and are now ready to retire.

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