Around one in eight (12%) men and women are forced to stop working before state pension age due to ill-health or disability, according to TUC research published this week.
The TUC report – Postponing the pension: are we all working longer? – finds that nearly half a million (436,000) workers who are within five years of state pension age have had to leave the workplace for medical reasons.
The analysis also reveals a stark North-South divide. In the South West of England, sickness and disability is cited by just 1 in 13 of those who have left work in the run-up to state pension age, followed by 1 in 11 in the South East and in the East of England.
But this rises to 1 in 7 in Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East, the North West, Wales and Scotland and 1 in 4 in Northern Ireland, reflecting wider health inequalities across the regions and nations of the UK.
The report also reveals that those who have worked in the lowest paid jobs – including cleaners, carers, those working in the leisure industry and those doing heavy manual jobs – are twice as likely to stop working before retirement age due to sickness and disability than managers or professionals.
Workers aged over 50 now make up one in three (30%) of the workforce – up from less than one in four (24%) in 2000. The report finds that nearly half (49%) of 60 to 64 year olds stopped working before their official retirement age.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Raising the state pension age is an easy target for chancellors of the exchequer wanting to make stealth cuts. But these figures show that we must hold off on any further rises in the pension age until we have worked out how to support the 1 in 8 workers who are too ill to work before they even get to state pension age.
“People should be able to retire in dignity with a decent pension when the time is right. Older workers have a crucial role to play in the labour market but we can’t expect the sick to wait longer to get a pension when they may need financial support more than ever.”