by Lara Spurr (Workers GB Writers Group)
Jeremy Hunt begins 2023 with a resolution to alienate yet more Britons, this time, the middle aged. In a bid to save the government billions of pounds he has put forward a proposal, one which will notably not affect himself or his wealthy pals, but which certainly risks impoverishing hundreds of thousands of working class people who are now in their early 50s.
Hunt wants us all to work until we are 68 years old, an increase which was already in the pipeline to be rolled out in 2046, but which he seeks to bring forward to 2035. This will affect people who are now aged 54 and under, and various charities and campaign groups have warned that this plan could throw thousands into poverty.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, has stated “There is no justification for raising the state pension age at the moment, especially as we know that the people who will lose out the most are those unable to work due to ill health and caring responsibilities”. Abrahams adds that those workers with few or outdated skills and qualifications who find themselves unemployed in midlife may find it much more difficult to get another job due to endemic ageism in the labour market, a persistent problem. These factors add up to a serious risk that “hundreds of thousands of men and women” could end up struggling financially as they approach retirement.
The Centre for Aging Better echoes these warnings, since an analysis they carried out showed that the rate of poverty amongst 65 year olds more than doubled in the 2 years following the rollout of the increase of the state pension age to 66. Also, Dennis Reed of the campaign group “Silver Voices” has noted that since life expectancy in Britain is no longer rising, the original justification for increasing the state pension age “no longer holds”.
Work and Pensions minister Mel Stride also opposes the proposal, citing the poverty risks. Hunt has til May, however, to persuade others around him of his proposal, since a regular review of pensions is due to fall in that month.If we consider that the French have just recently mobilised thousands upon thousands of protesters to fill the streets in an impressive response to Macron’s proposal to raise the state pension age from 62 to 64, it seems the time is more than ripe for us Brits to take a leaf out of our cross-channel cousins’ book and get out the placards to make our voices heard!
The Workers Party as part of its 10 point program calls upon the state to assist workers, no matter what their age, to maintain their skills and qualifications with high-quality, free, lifelong education and vocational training whilst also providing high-quality, free provision of all necessary support services for the elderly.
Expecting people to work further and further into their autumn years is a cruel and unnecessary burden upon the working class when the government could find itself some extra money by increasing tax on the wealthiest and closing up the loopholes which allow greedy capitalists to squirrel away profits to avoid paying all the taxes they owe. And lest we might feel sorry for these mighty “Atlases” who are having to “prop up everyone else in society” (as some of them indeed do claim) the profits they accrue are made off the backs of those forced to sell their labour in order to survive, i.e. the working class! If the workers downed tools, they’d make nothing! It’s time we took back the notion of a happy retirement at a reasonable age!