Working until 70 is more likely in a post-Brexit Britain, says study.
As Brexit negotiations continue in Brussels, Theresa May’s government shows no signs of giving up on its ambition to cut net immigration to the tens of thousands.
If successfully implemented, the immigration bill touted in the Queen’s Speech will end the free movement of EU citizens into the UK, but still allow the country to attract “the brightest and the best”.
Downing Street says that it remains “absolutely committed” to the target of cutting immigration to below 100,000, despite repeatedly missing it since 2010 – the year when David Cameron made it part of his election manifesto.
But critics say that a cap on immigration could not only cut off a vital supply of labour, but worsen the impact of the UK leaving the European Union on the State Pension and the State Pension age.
A ‘hard Brexit’ is likely to reduce the number of people of working age coming into the UK from the EU and, unless this shortfall is made up elsewhere, the UK’s old-age dependency ratio looks set to rise even further than currently projected. The calculations are based on projections by researchers at King’s College London that assume the number of National Insurance-paying migrants falls from around 600,000 to 140,000 within three years1. Eventually this would lead to over a million fewer people under the age of 70 paying the pensions of over a million more over 702.
A scenario in which migration is greatly reduced could push up retirement ages dramatically, potentially forcing people to work well into their mid-70s.
John Cridland, former director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, led a review of the State Pension age, and has said that the UK’s exit from the EU means that the future ratio of pensioners to working age people – a major factor affecting the cost of the State Pension – was “unpredictable” in a post-Brexit Britain.
His report already advises moving the State Pension age to 68 earlier than the existing timetable, but a hard Brexit could result in the State Pension age needing to be raised to 70 for people currently under 403.
“Unfortunately, we’re already in a position where State Pension age is playing catch-up with improvements in life expectancy,” says Jon Hatchett, head of corporate consulting at Hymans Robertson.
“Dramatic changes to migration make this balancing act even harder. If migration does fall, so too will the number of workers to support the increasing numbers of people of pensionable age. Undoubtedly this will put pressure on the affordability of the State Pension, and as a result the age at which you can claim it.”
Ian Price, divisional director at St. James’s Place, says that the findings demonstrate why those who reduce their reliance on the State Pension and build a sufficient pension pot from earnings will have the best chance of choosing when they retire.
“As a society, Britain is not putting aside nearly enough for life after work, a period that can now continue for decades. Putting some earnings into a personal pension is a great way to build up a bigger retirement fund as contributions attract tax relief on the way in and growth is tax-free,” he says.
Just a few weeks ago, the UK’s road to Brexit seemed relatively clear. But after Theresa May’s botched election gamble, which led to an immigration-focused approach to Brexit seemingly being rejected by voters, the government’s position is significantly weaker.
Adopting a softer approach to Brexit, one that includes retaining membership of the EU’s customs union, could mean that the government is forced to yield on setting its own immigration rules for EU nationals. But waiting in the wings is a group of 70 or 80 hardline, pro-Brexit MPs who won’t give an inch. For them, immigration will be a red line in any negotiations.
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1 ‘The economics of Brexit: what is at stake?’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 33, March 2017: https://academic.oup.com/oxrep/article-abstract/33/suppl_1/S31/3066076/The-economic-impact-of-Brexit-induced-reductions
2 As above
3 State Pension age independent review: final report, John Cridland, Department for Work and Pensions, accessed 5 July, 2017: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/state-pension-age-independent-review-final-report