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Work, retirement, income, gender: life for those in their 70s

by on March 2, 2016

As you can see I struggled to think of a snappy title for this blog post. On the other hand, I was intrigued to see the contrasting headlines in two newspapers which covered the same story, namely the results of a survey carried out by Nationwide building society.

The Daily Mail went with ‘Women are more likely to be working in their 70s than men with 40% still in a job because they’re not ready to retire‘ whereas the Daily Telegraph ran the headline ‘More people in their 70s in higher tax bracket than those in their thirties‘. This of course has prompted reader comments about unfairness and that make comparisons of all sorts between ‘generations’ whilst neglecting the within-group variation to be found such as socio-economic status. Two contrasting comments that capture this are “The inter-generational unfairness bandwagon is well and truly rolling” versus “If the older generation has more investments/taxable income, it is because they worked and saved”. We’ve been here before….

The survey is interesting because official statistics often don’t report (presumably becuase the ONS doesn’t ask about) the working arrangements of those aged over 65. This survey questioned 2000 people in their 70s.  The report highlights some apparent gender differences:

  • More than four in ten women in their 70s have a job, compared with about a third of men;
  • A fifth of women did part-time or occasional work;
  • Another fifth of women work full-time;
  • Men were slightly more likely to have full-time employment in their 70s, with 23 per cent still working five days a week
  • Men were more prone to retire completely when they left a full-time job, with only one in seven in part-time or occasional work.

The broader point is that these differences need to be seen in the context of whole working lives – and indeed issues around other (often unpaid) working roles such as care-giving.

The Telegraph article says that the income data ‘lends credence to new analyses which have shown that pensioners now enjoy larger weekly incomes than people of working age‘ citing the average yearly income for someone in their 70s as £21,617 which is apparently only slightly less than the average 30-year-old who has £24,763.  The Daily Mail points out however that six in ten women in their 70s rely on the state pension, compared with seven in ten men. And the IFS has warned that pensioner wealth would collapse again in a decade due to the financial pressures on younger generations.

So it’s an interesting snapshot but I’d suggest some caution before drawing too many conclusions, particularly since we don’t know much about the methodology such as the sampling strategy.

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