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Some reflections on pension age over the last century

by on November 14, 2013

Thanks to this piece in The Independent, we mark Prince Charles’ 65th birthday today with a reflection on pension age. As Hamish McCrae points out, Prince Charles has reached what until recently was the state pension age for men and still hasn’t achieved the job for which he has spent his life preparing.

McCrae reflects that until recently working in your 70s was unusual (he notes some famous exceptions amongst political figures). This of course draws on a fairly recent past in the UK. Pensions were first introduced in the UK via the Old Age Pensions Act 1908 which provided a (deliberately low) pension to eligible persons aged 70 and over. It is surely no coincidence that this legislation came into effect immediately after 70 years had elapsed from the introduction of state registration of births, deaths and marriages in 1837. This created the conditions of possibility that allowed state
pensions where eligibility was based on chronological age. This did much to determine the 20th century cultural construction of old age through the operation of retirement, exclusion from the workplace and pension entitlement. Until then, there was insufficient state knowledge regarding the age of its population, though population literacy and numeracy rates were also relevant to the operation of chronology in practice.

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