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19 July 2017

Affected by the pension age rise? Get used to living in the Brexitocracy

Curbing immigration will make the dependency ratio even worse.

By Julia Rampen

Born in the 1970s? You probably voted to remain in the EU, had your childhood memories tarnished by Operation Yewtree, saw your wages stagnate in the last decade, voted for a left-wing party in the 2017 election – and you’re going to be working until you’re 68.

David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, announced today that the state pension age would be raised seven years earlier than planned. In 2037, it will rise from 67 to 68. Those affected by the change were born between 5 April 1970 and the same date in 1978.

The decision is in response to projections from the Office for National Statistics, which show the number of people over the state pension age is expected to grow by a third between 2017 and 2042. 

One reason for this is longevity. In 1948, when the state pension was introduced, a 65-year-old typically spent about 13-and-a-half years claiming it before they died. In 2017, the same 65-year-old will live 22.8 years.

But another reason is the dependency ratio – in other words, the proportion of young workers available to support each pensioner. This was projected to reduce anyway, because of longevity, but Brexit is likely to make it worse.

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As Sarah Harper, chair of the UK government’s foresight review on ageing societies, put it to the Guardian in early 2017: “If you don’t want immigrants, you’re going to have to work longer. That’s how the sums work.” Not only do EU migrants tend to be young workers, who pay taxes, but they make up significant numbers of all-important low-paid care workers, representing 7 per cent of the social care workforce. 

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There is a chance that the state pension rise could be blocked by parliament. Labour is opposed, and the Democratic Unionist Party has already forced the government to climb down from some cuts that affect pensioners. But all the afore-mentioned parties support Brexit, with its implications of ending free movement and reducing immigration. 

Of course, the irony is that younger British voters chose Remain, and older voters chose Leave. But Britain is not a geriatocracy, because, as the speeding up the of the state pension age rise shows, the trappings for the pensioners today will not be available for generations to come. 

Those most untouched by the consequences of Brexit are today’s Leave-voting, home-owning, inflation-protected pensioners. You could call it the Brexitocracy.