Aegon  

UK self-employed among world's least pension prepared

UK self-employed among world's least pension prepared

British self-employed workers are among the least likely in the world to contribute to a pension, global research by Aegon has revealed.

A survey covering 15 of the world's largest economies - including developing nations such as India, China and Brazil, as well developed nations - found only 25 per cent of self-employed people in the UK make it a priority to always save for retirement.

That was the second lowest level of the 15 countries, with only Japan doing worse (11 per cent).

At 12 per cent, the UK also had the highest percentage of self-employed people who said they had never saved for retirement, and would never do so.

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, said the results were particularly concerning because the number of self-employed people in the UK is rising.

"The self-employed face unique challenges when it comes to saving for retirement," she said. 

"As well as missing out on a lifetime of employer contributions, a variable income means many don’t have certainty of how much they’ll earn from one month to the next, making saving difficult.

"Preparing for retirement requires a long-term do-it-yourself approach which is currently being overlooked by too many of the self-employed."

Meanwhile 25 per cent of UK respondents said they were not currently contributing to a pension - the highest percentage of all respondents. 

Overall, 44 per cent of respondents said they had a retirement strategy, third from the bottom ahead of France and Japan.

At 88 per cent, the highest scoring country in that category was India, a country with a very limited social safety net.

Despite scoring so poorly on actual preparedness, UK respondents were around average when it came to confidence that they would be able to retire comfortably.

Half of UK respondents, meanwhile, were  optimistic about being able to choose when they retire.

The paper coincided with research by the Resolution Foundation, which found that the self-employed sector had increased by 22 per cent since 2009.

Sixty per cent self-employed people worked in what the Resolution Foundation called "precarious" sectors - those doing low-paid contract work in the so-called "gig economy".

On average, such workers' weekly earnings were well below that of employees at around £240 a week.

While the low-paid workers still dominate the self-employed sector, higher-paid sectors such as advertising, public administration and banking saw the biggest increased in self-employment.

The issue of rising self-employment through the so-called "gig economy" is currently being looked at by the Work and Pensions select committee.

Tomorrow (22 February), executives from Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo will appear before the committee.

james.fernyhough@ft.com