Kate Hughes: Life and health are not to be begrudged

 

It's a truth that all of us have had a subconscious knowledge of for as long as we can remember: gender, occupation, wealth and even where in the country you live can have a huge effect on how long and in what health you survive.

We know this. It's nothing new. There have been endless studies on the subject. But the latest research from the TUC has now made the small step to quantifying that in cash and state pension terms. And it makes for pretty uncomfortable reading.

The headline figure is that a woman in her 40s living in East Dorset (with the longest life expectancy in the UK) can expect to receive £67,000 more in state pension throughout her lifetime than a woman of the same age living in Corby (with the shortest), who she is likely to outlive by a whopping nine years.

There's also the occupation element. A female managerial or professional worker retiring in 2028 can expect to live 3.8 years longer than a female manual worker, compared with 2.4 years today, the research suggests. This state pension divide works out at £29,000. The equivalent gap for male manual and professional workers is £23,000, or 3.1 years.

And despite average life expectancy continuing to rise considerably, to an average of 80 years in the UK according to the World Health Organisation, with the state pension age rising to 66 between 2018 and 2020 and to 67 between 2026 and 2028, the TUC claims that this increase is outstripping the rate at which we are living longer.

It means, the organisation says, that those waiting an extra two years to retire will receive thousands of pounds less than they would have if the age had stayed put.

This all throws up two questions. The first is more fundamental - why, despite efforts to balance the gap is there still such a significant difference in life expectancy based on where you live?

And second, if you take away the rising state pension age, which is of course what the TUC is actually going on about, how should we feel about this concept of hypothetical 'extra cash' more broadly?

I'm not saying, for a moment, that the longevity gap is OK. It's not – trust me, I'm a Northerner and the figures don't look great for me. I checked.

But the attention that this research has received is based solely on who gets more or less than us.

As Frances O'Grady, the TUC General Secretary says: “There is already a shocking divide in life expectancies across Britain, and if current trends continue, that inequality will get worse in the coming decades. The government's pension reforms will add to the problem, with people in richer areas receiving more from the state, while those in poorer areas receive less.”

OK, point made. But how far do we take the indignation that some people will live longer and therefore receive more in state benefits generally? Don't forget the extra hospital stays, extra winter fuel allowance. I wonder if it's possible to calculate the equivalent gain in free bus passes.

Where does it stop? Should we begrudge people a month's extra life? Two? A year?

These are genuine questions because inequality is what our entire benefits system is based on. At a basic level we accept that some people need and receive more than others, from the NHS to a roof over their heads.

That every single taxpayer takes part in that, pays in and has no quantifiable expectation of what we'll get back, in the knowledge that our neighbours, bosses, the bloke sitting next to us on the bus may receive more or less, and that we've been doing it for decades is a true testament to all of us.

So for once, and oddly for a financial column, let's focus on balancing the expectation for healthy life nationwide for all of us. Forget about the money.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Voices
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
News
i100
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

    £215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

    Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power