Retirement for men and women starting later, ONS finds

Men playing cards
Image caption The trend for people to retire later started in 1995

The average age at which men and women retire has increased in recent years, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It said the average age at which men stopped working and retired rose from 63.8 years in 2004 to 64.5 in 2009.

At the same time the average age for women rose from 61.2 to 62 years.

The figures are likely to keep rising as the state pension age is set to rise over the next few years, and workers will also be allowed to retire later.

The state pension age (SPA) for women will rise to 65 by 2018, and will then increase to 66 for both sexes by 2020.

Further increases to 67 and then 68 are still scheduled to be achieved by 2046.

The default retirement age of 65 that employers can apply to their staff is also being abolished by the government on 1 October 2011.

Key trend

The trend for people to retire later has been going on slowly since 1995, a fact highlighted by Lord Turner's Pension Commission in 2004.

Sarah Levy, head of the ONS pensions analysis unit, said: "Retirement is difficult to measure using surveys because when older people become economically inactive they may give different reasons for the change, even though their situations are similar,"

"ONS uses an indicator known as 'average age of withdrawal from the labour market'.

"This indicator... will be important to watch in coming years as state pension age rises," she added.

Rash Bhabra, of actuaries Towers Watson, said that retiring later did not mean necessarily mean less time in retirement.

"If official forecasts prove correct, men aged 64.5 in 2009 will on average live slightly longer than men aged 63.8 in 2004," he said.

"With female SPA now starting to go up, the proportion of women's lives spent in retirement is likely to fall," he pointed out.

Part-time work

The ONS has also found that the proportion of people still working above their SPA has risen despite the recession in recent years.

However, two-thirds of them were in part-time employment rather than still in full-time jobs.

The employment rate for men aged 65 or over rose from 10.7% in April-June 2008 to 11.7% in September-November last year.

The rate for women aged 60 or over rose from 12.3% to 13.5% at the same time.

Of those pensioners still working in April-June 2010, 59% of men were working part-time as were 68% of women.

The ONS said that part-time work was less common at younger ages, accounting for just 12% of employed men aged 50-64 and 43% of women aged 50-59.

Joanne Segars, of the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), said: "These trends indicate that working past the state pension age is increasingly becoming part of our way of thinking."

"For many working longer is a must because they have not built up enough funds to be able to retire," she added.

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