Pensions growth ‘stabilises’ despite fears of a pandemic plunge, DWP finds
Growth in pension saving has “stabilised” in the past two years despite fears that the pandemic would slash the amount of workers squirrelling away cash for retirement, figures revealed today.
Workplace pension participation has surged in the past decade following the government’s introduction of auto-enrollment into workplace pension schemes in 2012, with 88 per cent of eligible employees – some 20 million people – now participating in a workplace pension in 2021, according to data released today from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
The figures mark a major increase from the 55 per cent of eligible employees enrolled in schemes prior to auto-enrollment, with the ONS finding a surge in participation in the past two years from the agriculture and fishing industries, as well as hotels and restaurants.
“After years of growth in participation during the roll-out of automatic enrolment, participation rates have stabilised,” the DWP said today.
“Trends in stopping saving and contributions have remained relatively stable during and after the COVID-19 period.”
But the figures today reveal a stark picture of pension inequality in the UK as certain ethnic groups remain left out of a swell in participation.
Pakistani and Bangladeshi participation rose sharpest of any demographic from 35 per cent to 66 per cent between 2012 and 2022, but the demographic continues to lag behind average pension participation, the DWP found.
The lowest increase in the period in the past decade was recorded in the Indian ethnic group, which notched a 22 percentage point increase from 49 per cent to 71 per cent.
Analysts warned today that the biggest threat to pensions participation was also looming this year as the soaring cost of living dissuades savers from squirrelling away cash for retirement.
“Covid didn’t derail auto-enrolment, but the biggest test is yet to come with the all-consuming cost of living crisis,” said Kate Smith, Head of Pensions at Aegon.
“There’s a real risk that employees could be tempted to stop their pension contributions, as they make stressed financial decisions to make ends meet. This is likely to lead to employer contributions also stopping, so should be a last resort.”