Labour leadership favourite Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to introduce a flexible state pension age in the UK to address concerns the existing rules could create a “two-tier” system.
Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, Corbyn warns current increases in the pension age are unfair on workers with physically demanding jobs.
The Islington North MP calls for a debate around greater flexibility for the state retirement age, increases in which, he argues, allow those with well-paid jobs to take early retirement, while those with the least savings are forced to work into old age.
He says: “It will create a two-tier system in which the fortunate few can retire into long contentment, while increasing numbers retire later in poor health and poverty.
“So we need a flexible pension age that allows people to work for as long as they want to, while also recognising that for many people the nature of their work, their health, or their disability may not allow that.”
Corbyn wants to establish an ‘Older People’s Commission’ in opposition to assess reform options over the next five years.
He says: “If we want dignity for all in old age, then it has to be paid for. That’s why I believe Labour in opposition should establish an Older People’s Commission to create a new deal for older people, with funding options that can be discussed throughout the country in advance of 2020.”
This body would look in particular at public spending cuts, which Corbyn says have resulted in £4.6bn being taken from social care budgets since 2011. He also echoes fellow leadership candidate Andy Burnham’s call for the NHS to be transformed into a National Health and Social Care Service.
Corbyn says: “Such an integrated service would end the scandalous lack of care time, which leads to neglected older people requiring more expensive hospital care.
“And it would cut out the exploiters and exploitative working conditions suffered by too many care workers, who should be put onto NHS pay scales and given time to care for the person’s needs.”
However, Corbyn admits such a programme would be expensive and could require increases in income and corporation tax.
He says: “The basic rate of income tax was 25 per cent a generation ago; now it’s 20 per cent.
“For most of Mrs Thatcher’s time in office, higher earners were paying 60 per cent; now even the super-rich only face a 45 per cent rate. After 18 years of Thatcher and Major’s Conservative governments corporation tax was 33 per cent. If George Osborne has his way it will be just 18 per cent by 2020.”