Women’s state pension changes drive record winter employment levels

State pension age changes for women has driven a 0.9 per cent year-on-year increase to the female employment rate, to a record 72.7 per cent.

Employment increased to a record high of 33.07 million, or 76.6 per cent, during the three months ending in February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This constituted an increase of 0.4 percentage points over the same point 12 months prior and a rise of 0.2 percentage points over the previous quarter.

This was driven by the increase in the estimated employment rate for women, while the rate for men remained unchanged from 12 months ago at 80.5 per cent.

The number of women aged 65 and over being employed rose by over 100,000 year-on-year.

The increase in the number of women in employment is likely due to changes in the state pension age for women, which has resulted in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65.

The ONS report stated: "The increase in the employment rate for women in recent years is partly a result of changes to the state pension age for women, resulting in fewer women retiring between the ages of 60 and 65 years.

"However, since the equalisation of the state pension age, the employment rate for women has continued to rise."

Just Group group communications director, Stephen Lowe, said: “The number of women aged 65+ in work has risen by more than 100,000 in just the last 12 months to 598,000 while it has fallen by nearly 10,000 for men to 770,000 over the same period. Within a few years the number of women working beyond age 65 could overtake the number of men.”

The annual increase in employment figures was also fuelled by rises in the number of workers above the age of 50, employees aged between 25 and 34, self-employed workers and full-time employees.

The newly released data related to a period largely unaffected by the coronavirus crisis, leading experts to warn that the next set of quarterly figures will look very different.

Lowe commented that the figures would see a “massive upheaval” when the consequences of the coronavirus lockdown feed through, adding that the amount of people losing employment meant it was “more important than ever to insure that those in later life who want to work but cannot” were able to receive state support and benefits rather than having to access their pensions early.

Aegon pensions director, Steven Cameron, said: “While the immediate focus will be on jobs and earnings, labour market figures are also an advance measure of the population’s savings for retirement. It’s very welcome that in the short term, the government’s job retention scheme covers employer automatic enrolment minimum pension contributions.

“But in the longer term, higher unemployment levels or a further increase in self-employment, which is not covered by auto-enrolment, will have longer-term implications for the nation’s preparedness for retirement that will need addressed.”

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