When the arguments for a much higher basic state pension that virtually eliminated means testing and associated moral hazards were being thrashed out years ago in the era of the Pensions Commission, support came from government, opposition, trade unions, employers, occupational schemes, the insurance sector, special interest groups and the voluntary sector. The suprise really is how long it has taken us to get here. But with the Treasury saying it will be cost neutral, the devil will be in the detail. It may take a while to work out the winners and losers, but one group who are clearly losing out in this reform are existing pensioners.
The arguments for blatant age discrimination in this policy are lacking any moral or ethical base. Inequalities in later life according to those who had good occupational pensions and those who had no or very poor occupational pension (often women) are very substantial, and even at its heyday (in 1967) only 53% of the working population was covered by an occupational pension scheme. For working class people with the same skills and undertaking a similar job at similar level throughout their lives, researchers have shown that the pension they ended up with often depended by chance on who they happened to be employed by. Either pensioners need £140 a week at current rates to live on, or they do not. If they do, the need spans all pensioners. Indeed, the PPI have shown that need for income increases in late life because of increased need for health and care related costs. If we “can’t afford it”, then the answer is not discrimination but to share in the deficit. If this means other aspects of ‘the system’ can’t work, then that shows that the design of the whole system is faulty. Age discrimination is not the answer. Like other forms of discrimination, it is never a price “worth paying”.