We are sick not slothful – LCP’s analysis of the older “non-worker”.

We are sick not slothful

For some months, the messaging coming our of Government is that we must get the over fifties,630,000 of whom have gone missing , back to work. The absence of my generation from the workplace has been blamed on the availability of cash from pension pots and the taking of cash and income from defined pension schemes.

Now, new research from consultancy LCP suggests that though our savings may be supporting us, we are not retiring from the workplace but unable to work due to long-term ill health conditions.

This message comes from one former pension minister to another and is  amplified by Jim Bethell. Bethell is a  former Parliamentary Under secretary of State at the Dept of Health and Social Care and is a current member of the House of Lords  having led the government’s test and trace programme

Steve Webb – one former pension’s minister is asking Guy Opperman – another…

and concluding that the number of people taking early retirement is actually down on previous years. We are a generation suffering from the illness that are directly or indirectly attributable to the pandemic , illnesses we may imagine made worse by the problems being experienced in the NHS.

Where are we and what aren’t we doing?

Not all the 630,000 “workers” that the Government has lost track of are over 50. Infact it turns out only 353,000 of us are. There is a rise of non-productive working amongst youngsters many of whom are staying longer in education.

But those of us over 50 who aren’t working have been traced by LCP through data published by the Office of National Statistics, localised NHS waiting list data and the DWP’s claims history for Universal Credit and the Employment Support Allowance which UC is replacing.

The change in what we are doing is graphically reflected , month to month in LCP’s published report “The Great retirement of the Great Sickness”

Stacked bar chart showing change in economic activity by reason for their economic activity by quarter for the period January 2020 – September 2022 (thousands).

The bulk of the report looks in detail at the data from the sources listed , but the key message could not be clearer. We need to look at the data, rather than be driven by ideology or populist sentiment.

Back to work campaigns

There have been noises off from the DWP that the Mid Life MOT could be repurposed from use as a nudge to save more to a threat to work more. It is the baby of Guy Opperman and one that we expect to hear more about in the March budget.

The Government is beginning to understand where the over fifties who aren’t at work are and beginning to see is that they are off sick and generally on waiting lists rather than on the dole.

Rather than forcing people to work when unwell, LCP recommend that the policy effort needs to be focused around understanding why flows into long-term sickness have grown and on early intervention to prevent people’s health from deteriorating.

LCP state

“Without action there is a risk of a growing core of people stuck in long-term receipt of sickness benefits with limited prospect of returning to paid work and damaged prospects for retirement”.

We risk shaming older workers who cannot work. Otherwise, we risk  further damaging  their well-being. The Government must act with sensitivity and tact and be driven by data and fact.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to We are sick not slothful – LCP’s analysis of the older “non-worker”.

  1. John Lawson says:

    Phoenix analysis and research disagrees. https://www.thephoenixgroup.com/sites/phoenix-group/files/phoenix-group/Phoenix%20Insights/Publications/Phoenix%20Insights%20What%20is%20driving%20the%20Great%20Retirement.pdf

    There is the possibility that the data is flawed/corrupted. There is concern in the US that the labour force data is inaccurate, particularly the JOLTS survey due to a significant reduction in respondents. There has also been a significant reduction in respondents to the UK Labour Force Survey.

    I’m all for using data to inform decision makings, as long as the data is correct. When counter-intuitive findings emerge, the first question ought to be ‘is the data correct?’

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