Low life expectancy and pension funding
Scots have bad old age health and die younger than rest of UK
Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond on the campaign trail. Actuarial numbers matter in the Scottish independence debate, amid charge and counter-charge over how much Scotland can afford to pay in pensions if it decides to go it alone. Photograph: PA
For decades, Scots have had the worst health in the United Kingdom. Three year ago, the number of people dying aged under 75 in Scotland dropped by 2 per cent, continuing a steady fall that has been under way since the early 1990s.
However, people aged under 75 living in the poorest tenth of Scottish society in its most deprived districts – places such as Ferguslie in Paisley, for example; or Possil and Keppochhill in Glasgow – are 3.7 times more likely to die in any one year than those living in its richest districts.
Since 1951, life expectancy for men has risen from 64.4 years to 75.8, while that of women rose from 68.7 years to 80.3.
In 1980, a man retiring at 65 could expect to live for barely over four years, while women, retiring at 60, could expect 15 years.
Five years ago, a man retiring at 65 could expect to live for 10.8 years, while a woman quitting work at 60 could expect a further 20.3 years of life. However, there is a difference between life expectancy and how long one lives in good health. In this respect, Scotland is doing badly.
Healthy old ageThe finance committee of the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood last year warned that not only does Scotland have one of the lowest life expectancies in western Europe but “the gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy has, for men, actually been widening”.
The number of pensioners will rise by over half a million in just 20 years to hit 1.4 million. Meanwhile, Scotland’s total population will rise by then to 5.7 million, and it should hit six million 15 years after, according to the National Records of Scotland office.
Such actuarial numbers matter in the Scottish independence referendum debate, amid charge and counter-charge over how much Scotland can afford to pay in pensions if it decides to go it alone on September 18th.
Most of the extra numbers predicted to be living in Scotland in 20 years will be immigrants. Currently, Scotland receives about 7,000 a year, but Scottish first minister Alex Salmond is banking on that number rising to 24,000.
The contrast is striking between Salmond’s attitude and that in England, where immigration is increasingly a toxic issue. For Scotland, however, immigration, particularly in an independent Scotland, will be a necessity if future pension bills are to be met.
The future of pensions – the state one given to all; the public service one paid to those who spent a lifetime in the state’s employ; and also, private ones – are all featuring in the independence debate as Scots edge closer to decision.