The number of individuals claiming the state pension has fallen by 120,000 in a year to 12.6m in February, latest official data has shown.
The quarterly summary from the Department for Work and Pensions, published today (August 13), blamed the drop on a fall in the number of new claimants after December 2018, as the state pension age started to rise for men and women.
State pension age has been set at 65 for men since 1925 and was equalised for women in November.
It will reach 66 by October 2020 and then increase to 67 by 2028.
According to Nathan Long, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, the state pension age changes were shown to be having the desired effect for the government.
He said: “A delay in receiving the bedrock of your retirement income isn’t popular, but is necessary against a backdrop of people living longer.
“This will only accelerate more flexible working among older workers, making the flexibility of the pension freedoms even more valuable.”
Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said with further state pension age increases planned in the next two decades and recent mortality data suggesting life expectancy improvements have ground to a halt, he expects “Labour to put this issue front-and-centre whenever the general election arrives”.
The data from DWP also showed that state pension recipients were receiving an average weekly amount of £144.32 in February, a rise of £5.36 when compared with the previous year.
There are 1.1m claimants of the new state pension, which was introduced for people reaching their retirement age from April 2016.
The government officials noted the introduction of the rules had reduced some of the gap between the average weekly amounts men get versus that women get, as women typically get more under the new state pension.
However, due to the timetabled increases, fewer women have reached state pension age than men under the new rules.
Stephen Lowe, communications director at Just Group, said it was positive to see the gender gap closing, but warned there was still a long way to true pension parity, as figures showed nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of claimants for pension credit were women.
He said: “That reinforces the importance of women heading towards retirement taking advantage of the free, impartial and independent guidance on offer from Pension Wise, and also checking they are claiming all the benefits they are eligible to receive, such as pension credit.”
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