Pensioners see incomes rise

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The Independent Online

Pensioners have never had it so good, according to figures published yesterday by the Government showing that incomes for the retired have gone up by 51 per cent since the Tories came to office.

The figures will strengthen the Government's drive towards more private pensions, although John Major is pledged to maintain the state pension. Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, said the figures showed the success in the Government's policy of encouraging people to take out more private pension schemes.

The impact of occupational pensions conceals the fall in the value of the state pension compared to the rise in average earnings. Donald Dewar, the shadow social security secretary, said there were still 1.5 million pensioners who had to depend on income support to make ends meet.

"The rise reflects the fact that more pensioners are retiring with an occupational pension scheme. The state pension has in fact fallen steadily as a percentage of average earnings throughout this Government's period of office," Mr Dewar said. The state pension was now 15 per cent of male average earnings, he added.

The figures showing that their incomes have risen may come as a surprise to many pensioners. Help the Aged said it did not mean the majority were better off. The poorest pensioners had seen their incomes rise by only 10 per cent.

The proportion of pensioners with occupational pensions has risen from 43 per cent in 1979 to 62 per cent in 1993. There has been a further rise to 66 per cent for recently retired pensioners. The average amount of occupational pension income in addition to the state pension has risen from pounds 45 to pounds 73.60 a week since 1979, a rise of 63 per cent.

The average income of pensioners, before housing costs, rose in real terms from pounds 98.20 a week in 1979 to pounds 148.50 in 1993, an increase of 51 per cent.

Lilley said. After housing costs are taken into account, the increase was 57%.

The main findings in the Family Expenditure Surveys for 1979-1993 show:

:: In 1993 average net income of pensioner couples was pounds 209.40 per week before housing costs were taken into account, a rise in net income of 47%.

:: Average net income of single pensioners was pounds 111.80 per week in 1993 before housing costs::

:: The proportion of pensioner units with some income from investments was 73% in 1993, up from 62% in 1979. The average amount received by those with some investment income was pounds 37.40 per week in 1993 which was 88% higher than the 1979 level.

:: The proportion of pensioners in the top half of the income distribution rose from around one quarter in 1979 to around one third in 1992/93.

> However, more than half of all pensioners still rely on the state benefits and the state pension for at least half of their income. The proportion of pensioners depending on at least 50 per cent of their income from state benefits fell from 81 per cent to 72 per cent. For recently retired pensioners, it fell further to 57 per cent.

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