Level of pension saving by private sector workers falls to its lowest level for ten years

  • Just 38 per cent of people are managing to save for their retirement

  • Men under 40 are the worst hit as a result of economic downturn

Kirsty Walker

Last updated at 8:42 PM on 30th December 2011

The numbers of people saving into private pensions has dropped to their lowest level for over a decade, new figures have revealed.

Just 38 per cent of working-age people are putting money aside for their retirement exposing the extreme financial pressures facing households during the economic downturn.

The plunge in numbers saving into a pension raises the likelihood of these workers being forced to ‘work till they drop’.

Money matters: Thousands of couples are struggling to save for a pension

Money matters: Thousands of couples are struggling to save for a pension

The Department of Work and Pensions figures reveal that only 11.6 million out of 30.4 million working age people are saving for their retirement.

The figures show a steady decline in pension saving over the last decade, with the decrease being most dramatic among men and the under 40s.

The overall number of people saving into a private pension fell from 46 per cent in 1999 to 38 per cent last year. Pension saving among men fell from 52per cent to 39 per cent. And among people aged between 20 and 39 years old pension provision fell from 43 per cent to 31 per cent.

Ministers said the figures were ‘alarming’ and said they underscored the Government’s radical reform of pensions. From October next year, employers in larger firms will have to automatically enrol workers in a workplace pension scheme.

Everyone aged at least 22 and under pensionable age earning more than   £7,475 will be eligible for automatic enrolment, although people who want to will be able to opt-out.

Troubled times: Recent figures have shown the stuggles the elderly are currently facing with soaring expenses

Troubled times: Recent figures have shown the stuggles the elderly are currently facing with soaring expenses

The new figures came just days after the National Association of Pension Funds warned that gold-plated pensions in the private sector will have almost disappeared within a decade.

In 2008, only 3 per cent of ‘defined benefit’ pensions, such as final-salary schemes, had closed to new members.

Just three years later, the proportion has rocketed to 23 per cent – and will keep rising until gold-plated pensions in the private sector are close to extinction. 

NAPF estimates that in the past three years, up to 250,000 workers have been kicked out of final-salary pension schemes and shifted to cheaper alternatives.

The figures also highlight the growing apartheid between private and public sector workers. A typical state worker gets a pension of £7,840 a year, while two thirds of private-sector staff do not have a single penny in a company scheme.

Concerned: Pensioners minister Steve Webb admits the findings are a worry

Concerned: Pensioners minister Steve Webb admits the findings are a worry

Experts have blamed the most dramatic drop in the numbers contributing to private pensions schemes on the economic downturn which has left families struggling with rising living costs and soaring unemployment.

Meanwhile, annuity rates for private pensioners have also hit an all-time low.

A recent study found that up to 14 million private sector workers will retire with far smaller pensions than their parents and ministers have warned that million will not have enough to live on in old age unless they start putting money aside.

Pensions minister Steve Webb said: ‘These are alarming figures and they underscore exactly why our pension reforms will be so vital. With fewer people saving into a pension, lower annuity rates and an average of 23 years in retirement, many people could face a poorer future in their later lives.

‘We simply must put a stop to this trend and get people saving. Automatic enrolment, beginning for the largest employers later this year, will get millions of people saving, many for the first time.’

Joanne Segars, Chief Executive of the National Association of Pension Funds, said: ‘These figures are dreadful and should be keeping the Government awake at night. They prove that the UK simply isn’t saving enough and that, sadly, millions of people are on course for an old age ruled by poverty.

‘Squeezed household budgets and the economic slowdown are partly to blame for the fall-off in pensions take-up, especially among younger people. Unfortunately pensions are increasingly being seen as a luxury, not a necessity – and that is a mistake.’

Here’s what other readers have said. Why not add your thoughts,
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The comments below have not been moderated.

Money purchase pension schemes are a waste of money. My fund has lost tens of thousands since the mid nineties. The projected pension at age 65 is laughable compared to the contributions. A nice government final salary costing 9% of my salary over the years would have done me just fine…

I wish private sector workers would stop whinging about how they have to pay for public sector pensions. As a public sector worker I also have to pay for public sector pensions out of my tax. I then also contribute nearly £200 a month out of my salary for my pension. (I’m not on a huge salary, I’m just thinking about my future.) I have to work longer, do more and haven’t had a pay rise in nearly 2 years and not getting much of one for the next 2 years. And before you start with the lets sack all public sectors and give the jobs to the 2m unemployed the jobs- I wonder how many of them would actually want to do our jobs??

Now that so many of us are self-employed on half the salaries enjoyed ten years ago even fewer can save into a pension. All that the government’s new rules on company pensions will do is force more people to work on a self-employed basis. The only hope I have to avoid poverty in my sixties is either a total rethink/moral readjustment from the ruling classes, or an early death.

If you don’t save for a pension then the state will give you all the benefits you require.
Where is the incentive to save?

personally i cant’t afford to pay for public sector pensions and make a contribution to my own. look at your council tax bill in case you doubt this.
– gprince, preston, 30/12/2011 22:52
I work in the public sector, I pay 9% of my wages into my pension which will soon rise and I pay tax NI and council tax so I think I pay for my own pension thank you very much. Don’t blame others because you can’t manage your budget. Times are tough for everyone and most public sector workers would get paid a higher wage for doing the same job in the private sector, and you pay your council tax for services that YOU use.

What’s the point when the establishment prints money to solve it’s problems?

Don’t buy a pension it will only be ripped off by the government, your IFA, insurance companies and pension providers in massive fees, investment losses ( made by your IFA’s recommendations ) and commissions. Mine has been thieved and is now worth only half the original pot ! Keep it in the bank or under the bed !

If they halved my tax bill, then I could probably afford to save into a pension, until then, it’s just pie in the sky.

Yes it is a problem that is only going to get worse,no money left at the end of the month to save,and if you have where banks are paying a poor returns any money invested in the companies who were privatised has sunk so low at to be worth less than it was bought for.
Plus can anyone trust the finance sector after what they have done to “normal” people.
Greed has brought this home to us and nobody has been brought to book for it.

Whats the point in saving for a pension when having a pension will only go against you once you retire from work and try and claim money from the state epecially when you’ve been paying income tax and national insurance you’re whole working life!!!

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