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700,000 more pensioners in poverty if triple lock is scrapped – report warns

By: Age UK
Published on 21 March 2018 12:01 AM

  • Low earners will have to put in an extra £540 a year to avoid poverty in retirement.
  • Getting rid of the lock will reduce pension pots for the poorest and the young, say TUC, Age UK and Centre for Ageing Better.

The number of pensioners living in poverty in 2050 could be 700,000 higher if the triple lock for the state pension is scrapped, a new report has warned today (Wednesday).

The research – carried out by the Pensions Policy Institute – estimates that getting rid of the triple lock could lead to nearly 3.5 million older people facing poverty in 2050, compared to 2.8 million if it remains in place.

The report says that scrapping the triple lock would force low earners to put an extra £540 a year into their pension to avoid hardship in retirement.

Young people would bear the brunt of this change. Getting rid of the triple lock would double the amount a low-paid young worker needs to save to avoid poverty in old age.

Women would also be hard hit. They currently account for nearly two-thirds of those in poverty over the age 65. The weekly retirement income of a low-paid woman would drop by 7%, on average, if the triple lock was abolished.

The report also reveals:

  • Getting rid of the triple lock would reduce the income of a mid-earner pensioner by £1,000 (5%) a year.
  • Reduce the income of the poorest pensioners by £800 (7%) a year.
  • The triple lock guarantees that the basic state pension will rise annually by either a minimum of 2.5%, the rate of inflation, or average earnings growth - whichever one of the three is the largest.

Before it was brought in, state pensions rose in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was consistently lower than 2.5%.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said:

"The UK already has the least generous state pension in the developed world. Getting rid of the triple lock would increase pensioner poverty and hit the poorest hardest.

"Today's report shows that scrapping the lock will hurt young and old alike. A race to the bottom on pensions helps no-one."

Age UK's Charity Director Caroline Abrahams said:

"This very thorough analysis from the PPI shows just how important the triple lock will be in reducing pensioner poverty in the future, enabling low income workers to save enough for a decent retirement income whilst helping to protect the income of those already retired.

"Many people are surprised to learn that the average state pension is only just over £7,000 per year – less than half the annual salary of a full time working adult on the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour. Yet millions of older people are heavily reliant on this relatively modest sum, a situation that is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

"Considering the UK's high poverty levels, the triple lock looks to be an increasingly important mechanism to provide a degree of financial security for current and future generations of older people."

Claire Turner, Director of Evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:

"Financial security is incredibly important for a good later life. If you rely only on the state pension any reduction in your weekly income is going to hit hard.

"This report shows the importance of uprating pensions to ensure fewer people will live their lives in poverty now and in the future. It also serves as a wake-up call for anyone assuming the state pension will provide a comfortable income in retirement. Such people will find themselves much less well off than anticipated."


Notes to editors:

  • The report, How would removal of the state pension triple lock affect adequacy?, was co-sponsored by Age UK, the Centre for Ageing Better and the TUC. A copy can be viewed here:
  • The report shows that by 2050 the proportion of pensioners in poverty (under 60% of median UK income) under a double lock could be around 1% higher (around 200,000 pensioners more) and under an earnings link could be around 4% higher (around 700,000 pensioners more) when compared to the triple lock.
  • If the state pension was linked to earnings, a low-earner would have to save an average of 2.6% of salary from age 22 to reach the minimum income standard of around £10,000 a year set by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. This compares to 1.3% under the triple lock.
  • Someone who starts saving at age 40 would have to increase their contributions to 2.7% of salary a year, around £540. This would be the level required to secure a retirement income above the Minimum Income Standard as defined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  • To reach a modest standard of living with an income of around £17,500 in retirement a low earner would have to put aside 14.4% of wages under an earnings-linked state pension and 13.1% with the triple lock.
  • Research published by the OECD shows that the UK has the least generous state pension in the developed world:

For more information

Contact the Age UK Media team on 020 3033 1430 during office hours (Mon-Fri 08:30-17:30) or for out-of-hours media support please email 

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Last updated: Feb 18 2022

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